We head into Day 3 of Flower-ish Week with a name I’ve quietly liked since reading a book aged 7ish that featured a character by the name (although I’ll be darned if I can remember the name of the book, although I think it was by Jean Ure). The character was a bit of a free-spirit and I remember a key description of her being that she’d taken two different trousers and combined one leg from each.
Either way, today is the day of Peony, which the first actual flower name of the week. Peonies are native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America.
The flower is named for Paeon, a student of the Greek god of medicine and healing: Asclepius. According to legend, his teacher became jealous of pupil, whom had to be saved by Zeus from the wrath of his teacher by being turned into the peony flower.
Aside from Greek legend, peonies also feature heavily in Eastern culture. For example, it was a traditional floral symbol of China alongside the plum blossom, however the People’s Republic of China currently has no legally designated national flower, whilst the Republic of China (Taiwan) only designates the plum blossom. It is, however, the current state flower of Indiana.
In the Language of Flowers, the peony is associated with shame or bashfulness.
The name also reminds me of the primary school disco favourite The Music Man, wherein one section goes:
I am the music man, I come from far away
and I can play, (what can you play ?)
I play the piano,
pee-ah, pee-ah, pee-ah-no,
pee-ah, pee-ah, pee-ah-no etc.
Which reminds me of Peony, because she’s pronounced ever so similarly to how I used to sing piano in the song: pee-ah-nee.
As far as popularity in England&Wales goes, Peony isn’t something to write home about: in 2012 she ranked #2521 with only 10 girls given the name. Compare that to the similar sounding Penny (also an intriguing nickname option), who ranks at #308, and Pia who had double the births at 20, with a ranking of #1525.
What does that mean ? Well, it makes Peony an obscure floral name (duh, that’s what we’re covering this week after all) with plenty of folklore to use as bedtime story fodder.