Which came first…

May 23, 2007


the ant,


or the Peony?

My gramma had Peonies. The bushes were taller and fuller than me. They marched along the fence row that marked the end of her yard and the beginning of her lady friend’s. My rememberings tell me that the blooms were bright pink and red, like my mom’s lipstick. Some were more ruffly than others, but all of them were about the size of a basketball. I recall being truly disappointed in finding out that they really weren’t that big at all.

There are a couple of things that do hold true even now. The first is that although the buds have a nice round shape, like marbles, picking them off of the stem is not so good an idea; even though the consequences are not so dire or painful as they were back in the day.

The second is that if you bury your face in the blossom, it’s pretty likely that you will come up with an ant or three on your snout. Cut and placed in a vase for the dinner table, they provide not only beauty but a little entertainment to enhance your dining experience. The ants cover the bushes from the time the buds appear until they are all bloomed out.

Both my gramma and mother told me that the Peonies would not bloom without the help of the ants. I know now that this is not the case. The Peony produces a sweet kind of waxy sap that covers the bud and is very attractive to ants, which is why they come around. Although the ants provide a service in that they eat other insects that might be harmful to the Peony, the blossom will come with or without their help.

This is not something I would have shared with either of them. It could even be that they really knew but chose to pass along their story just the same. There were two lessons that were valuable enough for me to remember even today. The first was that although it would appear that the ant might harm the plant, that was not the case – “Things are not always how they look.” The second was that the Peony provided food for the ant who in turn helped the Peony to bloom – “We are all in this together.”

This story will make a good remembering for my children’s children. After all, I have it on good account…



10 Responses to “Which came first…”

  1. daddy d Says:

    Nice story. Yes, we are all in this journey of life together. Remember, “Do all that you can, when you can, with everyone you can, in the most positive way you can.”

  2. gawilli Says:

    Daddy D – those are good words to live by. Thanks for bringing them round again.

  3. Beckie Says:

    I love peonies and I currently don’t have any in my flower garden. My mom and grandmother told me the same thing about the ants. I never really knew if it was true or not or took the time to research it. What you said makes perfect sense.

    Nice pictures!

  4. Michelle Says:

    Oook! Remind me not to sniff and smell too deeply! I DO NOT want ants up my snout. No. Definitely not.

    Love the pictures.

  5. her indoors Says:

    they are beautiful flowers. i have a problem with ants i just do not like them so i guess that means i will miss out on the lovely Peonies

  6. mjd Says:

    You have written a lovely post about the lovely peonies and the not as lovely ants. Indeed, “Things are not always how they look.” and “we are all in this together.” Those are certainly valuable lessons to remember.

  7. I don’t have any peonies in my yard. I love them though. Guess I need to plant me some. Beautiful pictures!!

  8. debi Says:

    Your pictures are always the best. My Grandma Beth always had peonies in her garden. I have only a few portaluca and one tomatoe plant so far. I am sadly behind on my planting this year. I have a toilet by my front door that I grow flowers in each summer. I removed my old artwork so I can repaint something wild. So far no wildness has showed up.

  9. pjlibrarian Says:

    Your posting makes me miss the peonies I planted years ago at our old house. I miss the way they smelled so good and filled the house with an inviting aroma. My mom and grandmother told me the same ant story, but I’m afraid even at an early age I didn’t quite buy into. I do remember thinking wow these bushes and its flowers seemed so big in my grandmother’s yard. It is funny how memory sizes change from then to now.

    The trick, if it is one, I found is to cut the flowers in the evening right after they have bloomed out and turn them over and gentle shake the ants out. It usually worked expected the first year I had the baby. Of course, I didn’t cut them in the evening that time. Go figure. Lovely pictures.

  10. Cazzie Says:

    Marvellous story, gorgeous flower indeed.

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