The lovely, dreamy and luxurious peony is Gaithersburg’s beauty queen and City flower. These beautiful powder puff blossoms have been a coveted flower of emperors and artists for centuries.
Kate Greenaway’s book The Language of Flowers (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/31591/31591-h/31591-h.htm) refers to the peony as having the qualities of shame and bashfulness. Folklore says impish fairies were thought to hide in the peony’s petals. In China the peony is the “flower of riches and honor”, and is used symbolically in Chinese art. In Japan the exquisite peony is known as the “King of Flowers” and the “Prime Minister of Flowers.”
Colors of this regal puff like flower consist of white, cream, pale pink, deep blush, rosy red and magenta. A favorite subject of French Impressionist painters Pierre-Auguste Renoir Berthe Morisot, and Édouard Manet, the peony was been the subject of painters and photographers alike.
The famous Schwartz Peony Garden was started in 1913 by the successful Washington D.C. real estate broker Edward P. Schwartz. On April 27th, 2013, The City celebrated the garden’s Centennial Anniversary.
Edward Schwartz was a passionate amateur gardener who cultivated what came to be known as the “World Famous Schwartz Peony Garden”. Situated adjacent to his home, the garden extended to the Gaithersburg railroad tracks and onto what is now Hutton Street. From 1913 to his death in 1924, Schwartz established more than 40,000 blooms from 410 varieties of peonies from around the world. The Schwartz estate consisted of five acres and drew admirers for its peony gardens from passengers on the nearby railroad.
Among the gardens devotees was President Woodrow Wilson, along with Mr. Gilbert Grosvenor, President of National Geographic Society. Mr. Grosvenor documented the remarkable peony collection by taking extensive photos of the impressive peony collection.
During the peak bloom time of late May the gardens drew plentiful admirers from vacationers. Gaithersburg was known as a country retreat place for Washington DC residents. Visitors on both foot and train stopped to appreciate what was one of the largest peony gardens in the US.
The peonies were later painstakingly transplanted to Seneca Creek State Park. In 2004, some of the peonies were relocated to Gaithersburg History Park. And some can still be seen during their spring bloom time at City Hall.
The peony has long been used in the Far East and Europe for medicinal purposes as well as for creative inspiration. For a more complete history of the peony you can read here:
When it comes to the city belle flower, the Gaithersburg peony, one can say she’s had a lustrous past, she was once was gloriously admired, and now she grows freely in a nearby state park and sparingly on the grounds of the City Hall.