According to Chinese legend, the Empress Wu Zeitan ordered all the flowers to bloom for the first New Year celebration of her reign. All the flowers in the royal garden participated except for the peony. The Empress forced the disobedient plant into exile. Only a few survived in a garden in the ancient city of Luoyang. When the Empress later fell ill, only a peony root potion could cure her. In gratitude, the Empress lifted the ban. The peony returned from Luoyang and was given the title King of Flowers.
I love the flowing ribbons on the flower fairies!
In Missouri, peonies bloom between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, so you can understand why the plant might be unwilling or unable to bloom for the Chinese New Year. One of the best places to see peonies in St. Louis is along the path in the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
I was reminded of that photograph by the lanterns on the wall in Ridgway Center, the entrance hall for the Garden. These are Paeonia suffruticosa Andrews subsp suffruticosa, a subspecies that has been cultivated for over 2,000 years in China.
Information for this post was gleaned from the guide, Lantern Festival: Magic Reimagined. The director of the Missouri Botanical Garden approved our second lantern festival in three years with the principle that the exhibit honor the plants in China. The Garden has worked with China for decades, resulting in the Flora of China, “a comprehensive catalog of all Chinese wild plants.”
This is the first in a series of four posts about the flowers that are featured in this year’s Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden. If you find yourself in St. Louis this summer, don’t miss it! I’ll link all four posts to Saturday Snapshot at West Metro Mommy Reads. Check out her post today for photography by other bloggers.