The Peony, is named after Paeon, who was physician in ancient Greece. The Peony is made up of herbaceous and shrubby perennials, belongs to the Paeoniaceae family. The majority of peony plants in gardens today are hybrids of original true varieties.
Peonies have had a long and illustrious history in medicine and art. It is however their history in the gardens and parks of the world that is the most fascinating. The peony has had a distinct history in each of China, Japan, Europe and North America.
It is impossible to reflect what is several centuries of history in just a few paragraphs.
In the gardens of China, Peonies were known as far back as 1000 BCE. Peonies became very popular in the imperial gardens and they were put under imperial protection during the Tand dynasty. The best varieties commanded huge prices.
During the Sung dynasty, which began at the end of the tenth century, Peonies had spread throughout China. As new dynasties began and emperors moved their courts, peonies were also moved, adding to the widespread cultivation of peonies throughout China.
At the beginning of the eighth century peonies reached Japan.
Japan is a major producer of peonies. Japanese growers are noted for their skill in grafting and a large percentage of the world tree peony production comes from Japan.
As in the eastern world, peonies were originally cultivated in Europe for their medicinal value. It was not until much later in history that peonies began to be grown in Europe solely for their ornamental qualities.
Initially European gardens included only herbaceous species. It was not until 1789 that the first tree peony came to Europe.
Peonies in North America have been grown for their ornamental, rather than medicinal value.
Care and conditioning:
Avoid purchasing Peony fully opened or bloomed. Purchase Peony in bud to ensure maximum longevity.
Fill a clean vase with water and ensure to remove any foliage that may sit below the water level. Avoid draughts and direct sunlight.
Change the water regularly.
Health & wellbeing:
Arguably the first use of peonies was for their medicinal value. There is evidence that peonies were used extensively in both the Far East and Europe as long as two thousand years ago. Many parts of the plant are purported to have medicinal properties. Roots, bark, seeds and flowers were all believed to be of some medicinal use.
Today a number of medical researchers throughout the world are isolating compounds in peonies and evaluating their medical potential. The available research suggests that there are numerous useful compounds found inpeonies and it is possible to project that in time researchers will be using compounds found in peony to create modern drugs to treat some of our more serious diseases.
The peonies grown for medicinal use today come almost exclusively from China, Korea and Taiwan. It is the root that is harvested of both herbaceous and tree peonies. Most of the peonies harvested have been grown for that purpose, though some peonies are still taken from the wild. Research is underway to improve the yields obtainable and to increase the concentration of desired compounds.