Almost over night…

… the tree peonies are in bloom! On Thursday evening, the buds were still tightly closed, Saturday afternoon, almost all of them were open.

The striped tree peony next to the gate drew many visitors into the garden

Tree peonies are a short lived wonder. The buds pop open, the flowers attract bees and get pollinated, drop their lovely petals and are done for the season.

Peonies attracted a carpenter bee. They are also visited by our honeybees

Tree peonies are native to Asia and have been cultivated since ancient times. During the Tang dynasty (618–907) people were particularly crazy about peonies. The flowers were viewed as symbols of royalty and virtue, wealth and honor and female beauty. They were extensively bred and cultivated in royal gardens. The capital of this empire Luoyang is still the peony capital of the world.

This peony reminds of a Chinese painting.

Centuries after the Chinese were crazy about peonies, Europe experienced tulip mania. During the 17th century, tulips became extremely popular not only as a beautiful flower, but also as an investment and object of financial speculation. This led to an economic bubble in the Dutch Republic, which burst in February of 1637 and financially ruined many investors. At the height of tulip mania, one single bulb sold for many times the annual income of a normal worker. The most expensive bulbs were those of flowers with white stripes on red or purple background. This color pattern is caused by a infection with the “tulip breaking virus”, which also weakens the bulb. It is only transferred through the bulb itself, which doubtless contributed to the extraordinary value of these tulips, since they cannot be grown from seeds. Striped tulips are still popular, but today, they are affordable. We have a few in our garden, too.

Some spectacular tulips. The right variety would have cost a fortune during tuljp mania.

Aside from peonies and late tulips, the earlier irises have opened. Particularly pretty right now are the dwarf bearded irises that are always first to bloom.

Two varieties of dwarf bearded irises. The garden has a few more kinds.

While we were working in the garden yesterday, we could literally watch the buds on the Camassia open. At this time of the year, everything happens so quickly, it is hard to catch up!

miniature daffodils and Camassia