Ode to peonies

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t’s peony season here on the west coast of Canada! These gorgeous, fragrant flowers decorated the reception tables at our June wedding in Saskatchewan back in 1981, so my love affair with them is lasting. They are also an irresistible magnet for my camera and paintbrush.

I was excited to see a peony in bloom in the back garden of our current property when we first saw it back in June of 2007. That magenta peony bloomed beautifully for a few years and then mysteriously stopped blooming, eventually shriveling away to nothing. I blame the encroaching roots of trees that line the walkway behind us and the gloomy shade their branches cast over the garden.

Since then I’ve had to get my fix of peony beauty elsewhere. One local garden where the peonies bloom in profusion is Sendall Gardens in Langley. We visited on Sunday and I was not disappointed. We went shortly after a rain shower and the blooms were heavy with raindrops making them all the lovelier.

One of my favorite peony poems is by Jane Kenyon.

Peonies at Dusk

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They’re staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find out what it’s coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one’s face.

  • Jane Kenyon

From Constance: Poems © Graywolf Press, 1993.

Peonies are quite a challenge to draw and paint. They have a multitude of petals with curved and pointy shapes that make for a complex drawing. I’ve tried a few over the years with varying success.

My first try …

My first try at painting peonies in June of 2017—a bush of them.

From instructions in a book…

This one was drawn and painted with instructions from Jenna Rainey’s book Everyday Watercolor Flowers.

Lately I’ve attempted a few on my own. Here are several from my sketchbook.

The peony painting I’m happiest with is a 7×7 inch watercolor, “Blushing Peony,” currently available for purchase in my Etsy and Pacific Arts Market shops.

I’m now working on a set of three watercolor cards featuring peonies. Two finished, one to go.

Many local artists do a fabulous job of painting peonies. Check out these:

Bev Robertson (Vancouver Island)

Kathleen Niebuhr (Delta B.C.)

If peonies bloom in June where you live, go outside and enjoy them while they last!