Ma Vie En Rose: Peony Loyalist

Sarah Barnhardt peonies from the garden. 2017


Truth 1: no one ever realized that the state of Alaska was sitting on a gold mine that didn’t include gold. I was told at a peony class I sat in that a few scientists from Europe had visited Fairbanks, Alaska, and during that visit they had mentioned to some agriculturalist that Alaska was sitting on a gold mine and wasn’t even aware of it.  That gold mine was the peony.

Apparently, our long summer days and hard winters are ideal locations for cultivating peonies. But, the main reason was the season–as the peony season ends way early in the spring, Alaska, on the other hand can alter the peony season by having the blossoms available throughout the Alaskan summer. This means, that at the height of the wedding season–Alaska can provide bridal requests for the peony.

Truth 2: I fell in-love with the peony in my mid 20s, and when my husband and I finally built our home, I was able to plant them in my front yard. When the snow starts to melt in April, and the ground is completely thawed out, I am always anxious to see the peony plant return to the surface, and I also quietly sigh a relief that they survived the harsh winter.

Truth 3: The symbolic meaning of the peony centers on the fact that it is the floral symbol of China. I am an avid reader of Asian literature, and I’ve found references to the peony in literary greats like Murakami, and even modern ones like Lisa See’s “Peony In Love.” The peony is also known for embodying romance and a happy marriage. While I understand that the peony symbolizes romance, good fortune, and a happy marriage–for me, I see the peony differently.

If you think about it, the meaning and symbolism of flowers suit the way the present themselves to nature.  The sunflower is a happy flower, the pansies are cute, and roses represents every cliche we all know.

The peony, on the other hand, presents itself with joy and hint of sadness, a beautiful unrequited love that yet fully realized, and a perfected romance that can only be conjured in one’s own imagination.

When I look at a peony, I feel a sense of a lost love, and a longing for something I don’t even know. I am undoubtedly filled with a rolling of juxtapositional emotions that I cannot articulate.

And, I’m actually content with that. So much so that I look forward to the 24-hour daylight of Alaskan summers only because my garden will be surrounded by such beauty.

Peonies on my desk. 2017.


Jen Singh Peony. 2017.


Sarah Barnhardt peony from the garden. 2017


Sarah Barnhardt peony from the garden. 2017


Fresh picked peonies from the garden. 2017


First of the summer. 2017

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