These are in a vase on our dining table today:
I can understand you might look twice, trying to work out what they are. I’ll tell you: they are peonies after all the petals have fallen. What was left as the petals began to fall was so beautiful that we decided to keep them for a few more days to enjoy the architectural form.
This is how they began a couple of weeks ago, freshly home from a local West Sussex supermarket:
And as the flowers opened further:
But then the colour began to fade, through gold to cream:
Until finally the petals were lost :
Sometimes we forget to enjoy the whole life cycle of our cut flowers. Other times, perhaps now when most of us are all still in lockdown, we have more time to stop, stand, stare, and observe.
Peonies are such beautiful flowers, made even more beautiful by their short season. Unlike other flowers it is impossible to buy them outside their season. When we started to plan the details of the flowers for my daughter’s wedding a few years ago, we were determined that the English country look would include peonies. At the time I had a good relationship with a local flower wholesaler because I led the flower team at the Parish church, but was shocked and disappointed to discover that no amount of budget or good relationship could get me peonies in late July. They were simply over by then and that was it.
Peonies have an additional meaning for us now, in our dual-centre life, as in France we live very close to a peony farm. Our house is half way between two small towns, Duras and Monsegur and the peony farm is between us and Duras. The farm is rarely occupied by people, with work taking place in concentrated burst just a few times a year. But suddenly when it is time to harvest the flowers there is a flurry of activity with many people arriving in cars and mini-buses with Dutch number places, and large Dutch refrigerated lorries arriving and departing regularly, presumably taking the flowers to the flower auction at Aalsmeer. Once they’ve been picked silence and tranquillity return to the farm and we enjoy the few flowers that evaded picking as they open up to the southern sun and we drive past. Out of season you can hardly imagine that peonies were ever grown on land that looks quite empty as the herbaceous plants die down.
I wonder if the peonies we have enjoyed so much this past two weeks came from “our” flower farm in France? They could have done …