One of the best flowers this time of year is the fragile, the all to soon and its over, peony. It is a plant of great variety, there are the perennial peonies and the more shrubby tree peonies. They all have their own beauty.
The peony, alongside the rose, must have been one of the first plants I learned the name of when I was a child. At our house where I grew up I remember several peonies. The red, shaggy petalled type. I have two main memories of these flowers. One is that the buds always seemed to have ants on them and I found this quite sinister, secondly that rain destroyed the flowers knocking all the petals off and if I aided this process by giving the flowers a good shake this made my mother shout quite a lot. I understand why she shouted now. I realise what a flower vandal I was when younger and I really did not understand why people got so upset just because I destroyed a flower. Oh how my opinion has changed!
The ant thing on the buds is more than just a childhood memory, it is a well known thing.
Apparently there is a sticky sweet nectar on the buds and ants love it. It does not appear to serve any particular purpose then to make ants happy. It also means that when I am weeding around the peonies I usually end up with suddenly a flock of ants charging up my arm or in my hair. This usually makes me shout, occasionally there may be the odd expletive too (more than occasionally actually).
Ants included though, peonies are worth it.
Even when past their best,
when rain sodden and flopped over, a peony is a great thing. Then suddenly the flowers are gone and other plants grow up and help the foliage blend in again to relative obscurity. Always though the promise remains, next year the peonies will be back, they will be covered in ants and they will be amazing.
So the peony is called the flower of riches and honour and I can understand why: to have a happy peony is a great honour and gives great riches to the garden.