How gorgeous the peonies are now! I love the sheer generosity of them as a flower.
All winter they are nothing more than a tiny clump of scruffy-looking leaves at ground level, and then in the spring they come to life and start to grow, sending up striking reddish leaves from the earth.
Then buds form, round and tightly packed with petals, like a Brussels sprout.
Slowly they begin to open, and show a glimpse of their deep pink petals.
Then they open, and all of those petals start to unfurl.
Just when you think they're fully open, they reveal a contrasting centre of bright egg-yellow stamens.
I've planted a few peonies in our garden, including this unusual one. The label described it as red, and it turned out white with red streaks.
In the back garden I've planted a red and a pale pink one. They won't bloom until next year, so that'll be something I'll look forward to. In the meantime I bought a bunch of pale pink, frilly ones for the window-sill.
They're gorgeously feminine, and in the Language of Flowers they symbolise shame or bashfulness because nymphs were said to live in their petals. They are also considered to be one of China's national emblems, and feature frequently in oriental art.
I dry their petals and mix them with rose petals and lavender flowers to make pot-pourri and scented bags, a reminder of summer all year long x