1 Rockefeller State Park in Pleasantville, New York is home to a magnificent tree peony garden.
2 Many of these blooms are the size of a dinner plate!
3 There are approximately 500 peony plants in the garden.
4 And each plant was loaded with amazing blooms.
5 In Japan, the peony is looked upon as the humble king of flowers and it is a symbol of strength, courage, and future good fortune.
6 In 2002, the little Japanese town of Yatsuko-Cho in Shimane Prefecture donated these peonies to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve as a gesture of compassion and goodwill following the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001.
7 When Yatsuka-Cho offered the gift, gardeners began renovating the entrance to the Rockefeller State Park Preserve to accommodate them.
8 Yatsuka-Cho is well-known for its exquisite tree peonies.
9 Unlike the more common herbaceous peonies, which flop over if not staked, tree peonies bloom on graceful woody stems.
10 Also, herbaceous peonies die back to the ground each autumn and tree peonies do not.
11 Tree peonies grow to a height of three to four feet or more.
12 Another group of 500 peony plants was to be presented as a gift for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
13 These New York gardens were to receive 50 different varieties, all semi-doubles, in shades of pink, white, red, yellow, purple, and even black.
14 The Brooklyn Botanic Garden had already dug beds in anticipation of their arrival.
15 However, the first attempt at delivering the plants came to a rather tragic ending.
16 The plants had been shipped from Japan and arrived by boat in Long Beach, California in early October in the middle of a longshoreman's strike when no cargo was being unloaded.
17 The peonies were all bare-root plants, grafted cuttings packed in sawdust and a shipping delay would cause them to dry out.
18 Staff members at Rockefeller State Park and the Japanese gardeners who had come to oversee the installation waited anxiously.
19 The Japanese team of overseers for the project included a representative from Yatsuka-Cho, four gardeners, a translator, and an environmental scientist to ensure the proper placement of the plants.
20 By the time the container arrived in New York in early October, the crates were opened and the air became filled with the fetid odor of decay.
21 Not one plant could be used and the staff members at Rockefeller State Park and the Japanese crew were all heartbroken.
22 The Japanese team sadly returned home.
23 After surveying the loss, an insurance adjuster estimated damages of about $80,000 for the flowers alone.
24 However, the Japanese were hopeful that the flowers could be replaced.
25 The growers in Yatsuko-Cho rallied together and put together a second shipment, which was sent directly to New York by air.
26 The peonies arrived in early December of that same year and the gardeners scrambled to get them into the ground before it froze for the winter.
27 To show their appreciation of the generous gift of the Japanese, the Friends of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve raised $96,000 to build a handsome garden and stone courtyard for the peonies.
28 A letter from the Japanese is posted at the entrance to the park and reads: ''These flowers bring us happiness and comfort in times of trouble. We hope that these peonies, carefully raised by the producers in our town, can also be loved by and bring peace of mind to the people of the United States.''
29 What an extraordinary gift!