Legendary Flowers: How Did Peonies Appear in Our Gardens?


Peony is a truly magnificent flower. It is not surprising that this flower is considered the king of all garden plants. It competes with a rose in its beauty, while legends tell us about its wonderful properties. For example, Greeks believed that peonies could heal wounds and scare evil spirits away. The history of this plant is no less interesting than the impressive story of tulips in the Netherlands. So, let’s take a look at the secrets hidden in history.

The History of Peonies

Peony is one of the oldest plants. Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians cultivated their gardens in which they grew plants brought from other countries. Meanwhile, Persians and Greeks cultivated the gardens for educational purposes. In those days, they were unable to arrange fast peonies delivery like today, so the emergence of this plant in a certain area caused a particular interest of residents. In those ancient days, the first descriptions of peonies appeared.

More than 1,500 years ago, peonies were used to decorate the imperial gardens in China. Skilful court gardeners were already breeding new varieties. Surprisingly, the ordinary people were not allowed to grow peonies in their gardens. It was a very expensive flower that was considered a symbol of wealth and nobility. Nowadays, giving a bouquet of peonies means that you wish prosperity and all the best.

In ancient Rome, scientists mentioned this flower in their medical writings and described in detail for what diseases it should be used. Almost all healers of the ancient world cooked mixtures from the roots of this flower. Nowadays, a well-known peony root tincture has a calming effect and helps people cope with sleep disorders.

The European Conquest

At the beginning of the 19th century, the flower began its mass conquest of Europe. New varieties of this flower came from China to the territory of modern England, France, and the Netherlands and immediately won the hearts of European gardeners. There is a whole group of varieties of milky-flowering peony that has three names today:

  • Peony Lactiflora – according to modern botanical classification;
  • Peony Albiflora – according to the old botanical classification;
  • Chinese Peony – by historical and geographical origin.

In Europe, peony was most loved in France where famous gardeners of that time were working on creating new beautiful varieties. Some of them are still popular today. These are species with dense double flowering of white and pink colour and a delicate aroma.

At the end of the 19th century, English and American breeders began to work on the development of new varieties. This work brought the world new shades of peonies with decorative leaves and increased bushes. Today, the love for this flower can be evaluated by the number of communities of peony lovers.

Do you share the love of European enthusiasts for peonies? Tell us about your favourite varieties in the comments.