Peony in Blue: Design Story

red dog in a peony hedge with deep pink peony flowers for a design blog
Luna amongst my peony hedge.

Peonies are easy to fall for. These legendary perennials look high maintenance but are quite the opposite, although they require plenty of compost, attention to staking, and the basics of water and light. The plants thrive in our cool high alpine climate and have naturalized throughout my garden. When our kids get married, I hope it will be in our garden, and I hope the peonies will be in season. But that’s a long way off. For now, peony hedges inspired me to create a peony design on a scarf.

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”

Henri Matisse

Symbolism and Mythology of the Peony

According to Margaret Pickston’s The Language of Flowers, peonies symbolize prosperity. In the last century, brides put peonies in their bouquets to bring luck to their new union. The Chinese associate peonies with wealth and prosperity and dubbed them “queen of flowers.” In Japan, they represent bravery, honor, and good fortune.

Tanigami Konan Japanese Woodblock Print circa 1917

Greek mythology claims peonies as well. Paeon was a talented healer and physician, and the gods took note. However, he attracted his mentor Asclepius’s ire when he assembled a potion from a peony root to cure an ailing Pluto. Asclepius was the anointed physician to the Olympians and did not relish being displaced by his talented pupil and threatened to kill Paeon. Zeus stepped in and saved him by turning him into the beautiful peony. A violent end or a transformation into a beautiful flower? For me, that would be an easy choice.

Peony Inspiration

Since their cultivation, peonies have inspired designers and artists alike. Unfortunately, blue peony blossoms don’t exist in the garden – they range from pink, red, white, or yellow – so I assigned my own hue. I painted the central peony in loose, gestural strokes to showcase the lushness of the petals without the usual sweetness. The chaotic tumble of my peony hedge inspired the scarf border.

This is my favorite scarf design to date. Considering the subject matter, that is a given.

Peony Design Process

Our design process always begins with my watercolor paintings. Watercolor brings a particulate life and texture that we appreciate and accentuate within our designs. In order to maintain some of this interest, we enlarged the original watercolor painting to fit the peony design and size of the scarf with some Adobe Illustrator tricks.

Original watercolor peony

After this process, we chose the outer border color from the main peony watercolor, and included the peony border. We then printed the scarf out to scale in black and white. This enabled us to identify adjustments that needed to be made. Once this printing and adjustment process was finished, we sent it off to Italy to be printed.

Rolling up and Rolling out the Peony Design

Once the silk is printed in Italy, it is shipped to New York for finishing. The artisans hand roll and hand sew the edges of the scarf, bringing our design to life.

The design and production process can be lengthy, but we always look forward to seeing the end product. We hope you enjoy the latest addition to our Core Collection of silk scarves. This collection of scarves gives back – each silk scarf sold plants a mangrove in Costa Rica. To read more about this project, check out this blog post. To hear more about the product, check out our Peony in Blue Silk Scarf.

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