Monday, November 15, 2010


In the world of flowers there are many terms that have been created to define flower shapes, patterns, petal structures and so forth. Quite incredibly, especially in this day of information at our finger tips, many of the succinct descriptive terms used to precisely define a flower have faded into the background. Even if one does know many of the terms, they are almost redundant as many people in our industry have no clue as to what you are talking about. Fortunately, we have access to thousands of images on the Internet which are worth many trillions of words, based on the assumption that one picture is worth a thousand, which may make many of them obsolete.
However I came across one such specific term recently which absolutely delighted me with its pertinence and perspicacity.  It is used to precisely define a type of herbaceous peony: "BOMB"! The epithet refers to the structure of a peony that has a dense compact center composed of many 'inner petals'; petals that are actually dramatically transformed stamens and which are so densely packed that they form a ball, often obscuring the guard petals, or appearing to sit on them, as if on a plate.
A classic example of this, as well as being one of the greatest herbaceous peonies of all time, is the seminal "Red Charm" which was hybridized by nurseryman Lyman D. Glasscock in Chicago in 1944, and which was awarded a Gold Medal by the American Peony Society. "Red Charm" is a double Bomb form and is the standard to which all red peonies are compared to, not just in form, but also in its true red color. It is unfortunate, but almost all other peonies that are classed as red are usually a shade or two into deep pink and while almost red, to the human eye they are not.
Incredibly, the name is derived from a classic frozen ice-cream desert that was perfected by none other than Escoffier. In the 19th century an elaborate dessert was formed in exotic copper and porcelain molds, and filled with frozen ice-cream, which in turn had another filling within. At the dawn of the 20th century Escoffier refined the desert, making the shape much simpler, using large mixing bowls for the form, filling them with a frozen ice-cream outer layer and then inside with frozen custard and syrup. The large frozen dessert that resulted when two hemispheres were put together resulted in a large solid orb, that resembled the explosive device of Russian anarchists. It seems the name for the dessert was borrowed from this device and became known as "La Bombe", a name which has endured into the 21st century.  In turn, during the 1920's the term was appropriated to describe this relatively new class of peonies, which had been developed on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ironically, the term has now become a popular part of the vernacular and is used to refer to something that is "off the charts", outstanding and awesome!! The Bomb!
And the term, especially in the modern context, really does apply to the American Classic; "Red Charm" It is available right now, for about two or three more weeks, so don't miss it.

Paeonia "Red Charm"
Images One & Six have had the guard petals removed

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