Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tending My Peonies

One of my ladies from last year
My peonies are about to bloom. I say "my peonies" but I am only their custodian. They were planted long before my tenure here and they don't belong to me. I supervise them and trim them and watch them for rot and growth and tend to their needs, but they aren't mine.

They are about to bloom, though. They are a rich and vibrant pink. Deep, almost red in their centers, and showy, bright and lush. In March, the leaves come back and the stems grow long and supple from the brown and worn out wreckage from last year. In April they grow their buds. These small, hard green golf balls of possibility. They sneak in suddenly among the riot of the loud-mouthed daffodils and tiny, brave crocuses. When the flash and hoot of early spring color starts to fade, they are there with their buds, waiting patiently to crack and open.

In a week or so, they will unfurl. An impossible clown car of petals and fragrance unfolding from the buds. Their beauty will be so heavy, they will bend their stems with exhaustion and lay their heads down on the grass to catch a bit of sun and take a break from all that brilliance. They will smile hello to me as I walk up my front steps and they will wave their petals when the kids run past. A few of them will be invited to come inside and sit in a crystal throne on my table.

In a few more weeks, those petals will start to fade and drop. They will make small throw rugs, hot pink against the green grass. They will eventually be odd bald stems, with tiny stamen hairs sprouting from their crowns. For the rest of the summer, they will be dark green foliage, almost black against a backdrop of other colors whose time has come. I miss them and bemoan their passing, but wait until the fall to hack back the tired stems and leaves nearly to the ground.

Next year, it will happen again and the delight and surprise will repeat. These grand old ladies of mine know some things. They know that there is a time for resting, a time to let the quick and noisy ones take center stage. They also know when it is their time to open large and resplendent; to bask in the spotlight and accept their due. They know that time is fleeting and only part of the whole of things. They know when it's time to shed their finery and store up reserves for the winter ahead. They are as comfortable with brown and bald as they are with enticing and lush. They know this. They know that ending is part of beginning again, that pruning is part of growth, and that decay is part of nurture.

They are not my peonies. I do not own them. I tend them and trim them, enjoy them and love them. Most of all, I try to listen to them.


  1. Those are my favorite flowers! I love them. I don't hear them, though. Maybe they're not speaking to me. Or maybe I should listen more.

  2. And I just try to listen to you.

  3. Over and over again, I have to be reminded that there is a time to flower, and a time to fallow.

    Thanks for reminding me again, just when I need it.

  4. I wish I could have enjoyed the enticing and lush years more, that I could have recognized the beauty of my blooming petals. Now, I'm trying to remember that brown and bald is part of the process and just as beautiful. (Except I'm not bald, not yet, anyway.)

  5. Of course it is we who are not as comfortable with brown and balding as with enticing and lush. It is worth noticing that Nature invests more of her time in germinating and dying than she does in shows of splendor. I think there's a lesson in there. Thank you.

  6. I was surprised to walk outside this spring and find two peonies growing tall and lovely. I don't remember planting them last year, but I am so excited to see them. I love their loveliness!

  7. I have mixed emotions about peonies because my paternal grandmother passionately loved them and my mother just as passionately detested them. Those two things may not have been entirely unrelated. Loved this, though and the peony in the snapshot is a beautiful shade of pink.

  8. This one struck a chord with me. I'm looking forward to being able to listen more to the nature around me and less to shrieking toddlers. Though this stage is fun, I am looking forward to more maturity. And quiet. Oh yes, quiet. That comes eventually, right? Say yes.


Thanks for reading and taking the time to say hello!