Bouquet of fresh peonies from Carol's garden

Bouquet of fresh peonies from Carol’s garden

” . . . [the peonies] have come into their full adult beauty, not strapping, but statuesque — the beauty of women, as Chekhov says, ‘with plump shoulders’ and with long hair held precariously in place by a few stout pins.  They are white, voluminous, and here and there display flecks of raspberry red on the edges of their fleshy, heavily scented petals.
These are not Protestant-work-ethic flowers.  They loll about in gorgeousness; they live for art; they believe in excess.  They are not quite decent, to tell the truth.  Neighbors and strangers slow their cars to gawk.”
— Jane Kenyon, “The Moment of Peonies,” Yankee, June 1991



Thank you, Carol, for this lush bouquet.  It is scenting the room as I write this.  Ahhh!

The Georgetown warehouse of the Seattle Wholesale Growers' Market

The Georgetown warehouse of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

“We tend to consider bloom to be the ultimate gift of the garden, but the structure is just as important. For example, the phlox is beautiful in its mass of foliage, even before the blossoms emerge.”
— Stanley Kunitz, from The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden

Kunitz finds metaphors for his poetry writing in his flower garden.  Here is one of its lessons:  “In a poem, the secrets of the poem give it its tension and gift of emerging sense and form, so that it’s not always the flowering in the poem and the specific images that make it memorable, but the tensions and physicality, the rhythms, the underlying song.”

So, too, one of the lessons I’ve learned from the flower growing experts at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market is that you can make a spectacular bouquet from stems, twigs, pods, leaves, and things scavenged from nature.  Blooming is definitely not all a plant can offer.  There’s plenty going on in all seasons of the year.

The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market is a farm-owned cooperative with a focus on local, seasonal, and sustainable flowers.  I dropped in last week and was pleased to see that the Market is growing.  It’s expanded its warehouse space and is gearing up for its busiest year yet.

Here are some photos from mid-May at the Market celebrating its “underlying song”:





Sweet peas

Sweet peas from Jello Mold Farm


And sweet pea vines

And sweet pea vines



Calla lilies from Z Callas

Calla lilies from Z Callas






National Poetry Month. 19

Peony bud

Peony bud

“The source of poetry is always a mystery, an inspiration, a charged perplexity in the face of the irrational — unknown territory.  But the act of poetry — if one may make a distinction here, separating the flame from the fuel — is an absolute determination to see clearly, to reduce to reason, to know.”
— Cesare Pavese, from the epigraph to The Virtue of Poetry by James Longenbach

The Dearness of Peonies

June 13, 2013

A few photos of peonies from this season’s show:

Pink peony

Pink peony

White peonies from Kitty's garden

White peonies from Kitty’s garden

Peonies by the bucketful, Wallingford Farmers Market

Peonies by the bucketful, Wallingford Farmers Market

Pink peony with weathered fence

Pink peony with weathered fence

Tree peony, petals gone

Tree peony, petals gone

by Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open–
pools of lace,
white and pink–
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities–
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again–
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

Watercolor and ink sketch of peony

Watercolor and ink sketch of peony


Jello Mold Farm

Jello Mold Farm

While I was up in the Skagit Valley, I stopped by Jello Mold Farm to wander around the flower beds.  On this early June visit, I was especially taken with the red poppies and the pink peonies.

Garden shed with pink peonies, Jello Mold Farm

Garden shed with pink peonies, Jello Mold Farm












Bells of Ireland



Bucket of peonies at the U-District Farmers’ Market

Peonies, ruffle after ruffle

“Imagine the hard knot of its bud, all that pink possibility.  Day by day it visibly swells, doubles, until one morning in June, it unfolds, ruffle after ruffle, an explosion of silk.”
— from “Peony” by Barbara Crooker


I couldn’t help but think of kaleidoscopes and keyholes as I gazed at these flowers:

Keyhole peek into the interior of a tulip

Little doorway into the mystery of a tulip

Like gazing into the fractured symmetry of a kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscopic patterns

Another kaleidoscopic view

Symmetry in a tulip cup

Tulip interior

Another kaleidoscopic view

My kaleidoscope