My Little Garden in Japan is hosting a blog carnival today and has asked those interested to post about their favorite plant.
I decided to do a little research on their history and have found some interesting facts I certainly never knew. It appears the peony started in China as plants were found as early as 1000 BCE. They were used for medicinal purposes. The roots, barks, seeds and flowers were all thought to have some medicinal benefit, for example, the bark cools the blood and may have antibacterial properties. It was only in the 7th century that peonies were grown for ornamentation. During the Tang dynasty, peonies were very popular in the imperial gardens and many commanded high prices. In fact they were used as part of a woman's dowry.
Chinese horticulturists developed the large double tree and herbaceous peonies and used grafting techniques to reproduce valuable cultivars.
Peonies were introduced into Japan about the 8th century. The Japanese preferred simpler forms and created what is known as the Japanese form; a rounded center made of small petals with wider petals surrounding this center.
Peonies are known to have made their way the Europe sometime before the middle ages, and again, the use was medicinal. Europeans brought peonies over to North America when they started settling here. We have always grown them for there ornamental beauty.
Both China and Japan have a long history of using the peony in their poetry, art and gardens.
I love peonies for their fragrance. I only buy fragrant ones or why else bother?
Many thanks go to La Pivoinerie D'Aoust for their information on peony history.