Peonies

To us nothing signals the start of summer more than peonies; their fragrant scent, their layer upon layer of ruffled petals that unfurl to create their beautiful full shape and delicate beauty. In China, peonies are highly regarded and are known as the king of flowers. Peonies were the national flower of China until 1929 when they were replaced by plum blossom, and they are often featured in many Chinese paintings, ceramics and wood carvings. The Luoyang National Peony Garden is a paradise for peony lovers, it boasts almost every type of peony in its collection of 800,000 tree peonies and seven different breeds of wild peonies. In both China and Japan, peony is a symbol of good fortune and peace, especially when in full bloom.

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According to Greek mythology, it is believed that peonies are named after the Greek physician of the gods, Paeon. The young physician used peony root to heal Pluto. Aesculapius, his contemporary, became jealous of his great knowledge and tried to slay him. To save Paeon and show him compassion, Pluto transformed him into a peony and this is where peonies get their symbol of compassion.

Peonies also came to symbolise bashfulness. A beautiful nymph named Paeonia, attracted the attention of Apollo who began flirting with her. Paeonia realised that Aphrodite was watching them and she became bashful and turned bright red, in anger Aphrodite transformed Paeonia into a red peony.

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