What is better than a beautiful bloom on what may otherwise be a dark day? Today my “bloom” was an unexpected email sprouting from my inbox. While this winter has been unseasonably mild, it is still winter in the sense that I cannot spend hot afternoons eyeing my flowers dreamily, I can’t float along the paths of my garden rejoicing in its bright blooms, I can’t be uplifted upon the sweet grape scent of a huge clump of iris’ or gently transplant a tender, new plant into the warm earth. Despite the lack of snow, it is still winter and I long for the spring sunshine again to beckon hibernating perennials to life.
My unexpected “bloom” today was receiving an email from Klehm’s Songsparrow Nursery. While all seed and plant catalogs may seem equal, they most definitely are not all created equal. Klehm’s is truly in a category all its own. I first heard about Klehm’s while attempting to educate myself on the planting and care of peonies online. I ran across a video piece from Martha Stewart touting Klehm’s Songsparrow as the foremost authority in hybridizing peonies, and Martha’s “go-to” for a wide variety of top quality peony specimens. Who am I to argue with Martha? I visited their website immediately and was not disappointed. I couldn’t believe the different hues, shapes and sizes that were available. I felt I had died and wound up in a glorious, peony heaven.
As a child, I fell in love with peonies. They were huge, romantic swirls of tulle-like petals invoking visions of princess bridal bouquets. I remember their heavily-petaled heads drooping nearly to the ground under the weight of an evening rainstorm and their tight buds opening to colorful enormity almost overnight. It seemed amazing that their stems could withstand the great layered weight of their blooms.
The peonies of my childhood will always remind me of Memorial Day in a small town. We would walk to the cemetery up the hill after cutting a few blooms and placing them ever so carefully in a small coffee can covered in tinfoil. As we would weave our way through the headstones, it would become evident that there were a multitude of peony plants in our small town and Memorial Day seemed to be it’s crowning day of glory. Peonies in golden white, pale pink and dark, pinkish red could be found all around the cemetery in coffee cans just like ours, covered on the outside in tinfoil.
I once had a conversation with one of my college writing professors about peonies. I’ve always found it mysterious that peonies have such a seemingly flamboyant, look-at-me confidence, yet they rarely have any accompanying sweet scent. It seems almost like an unexpected juxtaposition. The most beautiful and regal of flowers, yet lacking a beautiful scent to waft upon the sweet springtime air? My professor had studied peonies briefly and told me that it is only after years and years and years that traditional peonies begin to give off any fragrance at all from their blooms.
That’s one of the things I find so alluring about peonies. To me, they are an heirloom. A gift left from one generation to the next, and the next, blooming the same today as they may have one hundred years ago.
It is said that peonies often outlive their owners. May we all be so lucky as to leave a thing of blooming beauty for the next in our places.