The peony is named after Paeon, a student of Asclepius, Greek god of medicine and healing. Asclepius became jealous of his pupil and Zeus, as a last resource, transformed Paeon into the peony flower to save him from the wrath of Asclepius.
Peonies are full of history and symbolism. In China, they’re considered the flower of riches and honour, the King of all flowers. In Japan it’s also called the King of flowers and used to treat various medical ailments, even convulsions. In Europe the seeds were used for medical treatments, and great care had to be taken when picking the seeds because if you were seen by a woodpecker during this act, the bird would peck out your eyes.
In our family, the peony ranks highly. My mother’s favourite flower, they were also adored by my grandmother who was careful to protect their bulbs during the winter so they’d re-flower every year.
These are the ones I found this year.