“And the wind upon its way whispered the boughs of May, And touched the nodding peony flowers to bid them waken.” Siegfried Sassoon
If you’re like me, you are crazy for peonies and the season to enjoy them is just too short. It is peony time in my garden and I am cutting these beauties as fast as they bloom, to fill the house with their intoxicating perfume and showy flowers. I just can’t get enough of them! Hélas, their showtime is limited and the bliss is much too short lived.
Last year I visited a peony farm in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania where the famous Eleanor Tickner grows 2,000 peonies. Talk about a thrill. But it wasn’t the amazing peony show that blew my mind as much as the stunning secret I learned from Eleanor: you can refrigerate cut peonies for up to 6 months to enjoy them long after their growing season has passed! Say again???? How could I not have known this after growing peonies for more than 20 years? To read more about Eleanor Tickner, please click here:
I experimented and I am here to tell you that Eleanor’s technique works! Here is how to extend the bloom time of peonies:
For double flower varieties, cut the peonies in bud stage just as the bud is opening. Avoid the very tight buds and choose buds that pass the “soft marshmallow squeeze test”.
Remove all foliage and keep the stem at a desired length. Place in a ziplock bag(1 or 2 gallon size) and fill with your cut flowers, laying them flat. Place in your refrigerator for up to 6 months. When you are ready to use your flowers, recut the tip, place in a deep vase of water and enjoy seeing your peonies open in about 12 hours. It is a sight to behold! Even the ants that ended up in the peonies I had cut survived this long cold hibernation, much to my surprise and amusement!
With single flower varieties, there is only a slight modification: they should be cut in a tighter bud stage as they open more quickly. No marshmallow squeezing test here! You want a harder bud in these varieties.
A good rule of thumb for this technique is that tighter blooms will take longer to open while softer blooms will open more quickly. Be aware that buds can be cut so hard, they may never open. In thinking ahead of how you will use these peonies, you may decide you want some buds in your bouquets and in that case may want to include a few tight buds to store.
This is not an exact science and you may find some of your peonies do not open ideally. If you are needing the flowers for a special occasion such as a wedding, cut twice as many as you ideally need to allow for losses. I hope you are as excited as I am at the prospect of having peonies in bloom from your garden post-season! Get cutting your peonies now, for future enjoyment. You will be thanking me later!
“Peonies are like roses but without thorns and have flowers twice as large!” Anonymous
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