The Chinese name for peony is "sho yu" which means "most beautiful"
Colours range from pure white through baby pinks and palest peaches to clear deep pink and darkest rich maroon. There is also a pale yellow but it is rare.
Peonies are only available between late May and early July, so get them while you can!
Peonies are very thirsty flowers, so make sure you top up the vase or bowl.
The Greeks believed they could cure over 20 ailments, and every monastery garden boasted a peony bush.
Peonies have been cultivated for over 2,000 years, more for their medicinal qualities than for ornament. The Japanese protect the earliest peony blooms from the snow by protecting them with individual small thatched shelters. Some geishas used to wear special peony colours.
The Chinese also idolised this flower. Peony motifs, particularly bright red ones, can be found on Chinese silks and in their exuberant wood carvings. The common thread is that the flower always denotes luxury and indulgence.