I was eager to plunge my nose in the spumy peonies as soon as they appeared last spring. Peonies always remind me of one day in spring in my childhood when I arrived at the country house of a friend for the Easter holiday. As soon as I got out of the car I was welcomed by the sunny, undulating spectacle of gusts of wind blowing hard on a large seemingly frenzied bed of peonies which despite their mass were dancing as if in a wild ballet, surging episodically like rustling waves of foamy silk chiffon. The froufrou sound they made against the wind is still in my ears. I ran towards them in order to instinctively hug them and we were all laughing hard trying to prevent them from breaking but also a little out of our minds of happiness to be able to dance with the wind and flowers so soon after we arrived. The flowers seemed to be about our heights...
The splendor of their full, sumptuous pink, white and touched-by-carmine heads - as if bearing traces of rouge on pale cheeks - as big as fruits, like pomegranates, but also cabbage-like, and their delicate fresh peppery scent in the spring atmosphere remain exhilarating in my memory.
As I probed around last spring I was arrested by yellow peonies that smelled a little like lemon custard, but the florist assured me that the species was odorless because the peonies in early spring are scentless. You have to wait for a month more at least to smell the odoriferous kinds. I went back to the yellow peonies that still seemed to smell of lightly peppery lemon custard but had to ask myself whether this might not have been suggested to me by their color. I decided not to clarify further and nurture the illusion.
They had a very soft citrusy nuance, a note akin to verbena, and were both fresh and creamy, a little spicy. Maybe make a verbena custard inspired by a bouquet of yellow peonies? Or a light-as-cloud verbena soufflé with a drop of peony essence in which the wind and the yeasty peony dance can be rolled around the mouth?
Photos: Red Peonies and Pink and Yellow Peonies © The Scented Salamander