It’s time to clear the air about the peony flower and it’s fragrant folklore. From their popularity as a subject of famous artists to becoming a cash crop in cool climates, peonies have seen plenty of growth.
With a cloud of strange symbolism and legends surrounding the peony, these facts just may change the way you see them in your next bouquet. Or, it may be the reason you prefer the peony as a favorite flower forevermore.
Superstitions About the Peony Flower
Medieval times were wild for the peony, according to the world’s first Wikipedia the Naturalis Historia it had way more uses than decorating a table. It was believed that putting peony seeds under your pillow or in wine would protect you from having nightmares. Who knows, maybe the sweet smell of peonies while you sleep will give you sweet dreams too.
Peonies in Ancient Greece
You may know that peonies were grown in ancient times because they were believed to have medicinal properties. This mythology comes from the fact that the Peony is named after Paeon, a Greek god of medicine and healing. But many ancient Greeks believed that the flower itself was created by the moon goddess Selene. Selene is the Greek goddess frequently seen wearing a crescent moon on her crown. It was thought that she created peonies to reflect the glow of the moon’s beams onto Earth for protection.
Plus, they thought the practice of growing them would ward off evil spirits and offer their planters protections. Basically, peonies acted like an ancient ghost security system.
Still Life with Peony
There is a majesty to the beauty of a peony in full bloom that we just want to hang on to. Famous artists from Vincent Van Gogh to Pierre-Auguste Renoir were so inspired to capture their beauty some of the world’s most priceless masterpieces were painted to create an artistic time capsule.
Edouard Manet, another impressionist, painted his own peony bouquet in 1864 and Renoir’s peonies were painted around 1880. Van Gogh created at least two in 1886 and possibly another around 1889-90.
Van Gogh’s last peony painting was the subject of great controversy regarding a hair found under the paint and DNA testing to prove its authenticity (it still is not yet officially confirmed). Either way, it’s clear that this era in Europe was an important time for the peony flower.
Aside from them clearly being a familiar flower in Europe at that time, it’s clear that they each iconic artist saw something inspiring in this famed flower. Seeing a bouquet of peonies in person shows us exactly what these world famous painters found so inspiring.
Celebrity Flower Dedications
Celebrity-named flowers are more common than you’d think. Notable flower a-listers with their own varieties include the Barbara Streisand rose, Marilyn Monroe Rose and even the Betty White rose (she’s the best! Of course someone named a rose after her). Before any of them, there was the Sarah Bernhardt Peony.
Haven’t heard of her? Bernhardt was a French actress who is considered the world’s first celebrity actress. Plus, the flower itself is one of the most famous peony varieties as well. Sarah Bernhardt Peonies make up 20 of the 50 million stems sold every year by the Netherlands, the world’s largest producer of peony flowers. Bernhardt’s fame not only catapulted her own stardom, it helped to make a flower legendary as well.
Alaska’s Rich Growth
For sixty years, peonies have been an important crop flower in Alaska because they can grow comfortably in colder climates. Not only are they reasonably frost resistant, their growth actually thrives on cold weather during their dormant season. It’s what makes Alaska a perfect place for peonies to “chill” before “open season”.
These days the peony flower is a favorite of brides and lovers alike and has a loyal following that celebrates their season every year. We have an easy way to help you keep an eye out for peony season, especially since it’s one we look forward to as well. In the immortal words of Marco Polo, a man who was clearly not a poet, with “roses as big as cabbages” what’s not to love?Shop All