Aunt Peony Comes to Call

In all of God’s green earth there are few things less conspicuous than a peony in full bloom. They are, in Henry Mitchell’s words, “The fattest and most scrumptious of all flowers, a rare fusion of fluff and majesty. . .”

One must always keep in mind however that peonies, as with processed cheese spreads, are not all created equal.

It is conceivable that someone might invite a single or anemone type peony to a garden party.  Being small and vulnerable, they will practically fall over themselves complimenting your drape fabric, the plushness of your lawn, and the pleasing symmetry of your jib.

Sure they may not be the most compelling of guests – their frequent, nervous laughter and nauseating pretense never fail to unsettle. However, like an old tennis shoe, there remains a certain appeal in their predictability.

After such a mild encounter, one might conclude the Peonia gang are a generally agreeable lot – finally a genus that understands the art of social convention. But one would be mistaken; for everyone knows that lurking behind the veneer of even the most ho-humiest of families lay larger, smellier, brighter forces.

Enter – *Cue savage kettledrums*Aunt Double Peony!

Arriving a full two hours early,  she squeals up in an old fleetwood Cadillac wearing a bright mauve patterned dress. Blitzing past your meek protestations, she flops down on your favorite recliner, lights up a cigarette, and launches into a string of personal anecdotes that would make a first-mate blush.  You find her laugh reminiscent of Freddy Kreuger’s first attempt at chalkboard finger paint and, wafting from her person, the irrefutable assault of Chanel #5.

Despite her brusque manner, you notice a kind of appealing rawness which is easy to relax in. You admire her ability to ignore, even revel in, the polite coughs and raised eyebrows around her. She ‘tells you how it is’ without expecting you to agree with her – which is fortunate, because you seldom do.

When she finally does leave around 3am, you feel as if you’d been run over buy a pink juggernaut and spend the next three days decompressing over cups of weak chamomile tea.

But enough about dinner parties, let’s talk moisture.

It should be a law that some things in life should never get wet; here I’m thinking seniorly dogs, perms, and electric toasters. But surely we must also add peonies to this list. Though the double varieties are unquestionably impressive, many have been cultivared beyond any hope of personal dignity and, following the slightest shower, sprawl over the lawn like a troop of drunken muppets.

There they lie, waiting for a heat wave or some kind soul to come and shake the living daylights out of them. Even at the peak of drought, they continue to hang in mid-air like some tragic Suessian creature on the edge of remembering something important.

Where would we be without the noble peony? Their faithful resurrection each summer, their reassuring antiquity, and yes, even their fluff and majesty.

Benjamin Inglis, Media Assistant