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Caring for peony bouquets

by Timber Press on January 5, 2018

in Design, Gardening

Peony bouquets often accent the most exceptional days of our lives. Many brides and their mothers sense that peonies in bloom will convey that romantic aura. Graceful, often fragrant, and in the full range from chaste whites through blushing pinks, culminating in boldly festive corals, yellows, and reds of every hue, peonies are suitable for all kinds of celebrations.

Bountiful Bouquets
As you design your garden with peonies, consider growing other flowers that bloom at the same time. Our list of companion plants is based on decades of experience. Harmonize your garden plantings with the kinds, forms, and colors of flowers that complement your peonies. This way you’ll create your own distinctive living treasury of bouquet-ready flowers. These can become signature bouquets that could have come from no other garden but yours. Share them with pride and pleasure.

Buds of ‘Coral Charm’ at the correct cutting stage for enjoying long-lasting bouquets.

Cut Flower Care
Simple steps guarantee success. Cut flowers during the cool part of the day. Use clean, sanitized tools and containers. Remove all foliage that will be underwater. Recut the stem underwater just as it is put in the vase. Finally, display in a cool location out of direct sunlight for a longer-lasting bouquet. Now for the details.

Everyone loves peonies in bouquets, whether as single stems, or grouped with other peonies, or mixed with other flowers and foliage. A few tricks can help your cut peonies be superlative. While many home gardeners cut peonies in bloom for use right then, for important events or for sharing peony flowers, it’s best to cut the stems in bud and allow the bud to open in the vase.

Extend your season with bouquets. No one would know these peonies were refrigerated in bud for over a week.

Cut peony flowers or buds early in the morning while the buds are still cool. Leave at least three sets of leaves on the stem below the cut to keep the plant vigorous. Most varieties can be cut when the bud feels like a large, firm marshmallow or when you observe the first petal move away from the bud. If you feel a hard marble texture when squeezing the bud, the bud is still too tight to cut. Wait for it to partially open. Each variety can vary in cutting stage. A single bloom must be cut tighter than a double bloom. When a stem is cut with a tight bud, the flower may not open. When learning stages to cut blooms it is helpful to take some buds in the house to observe if and how they open.

Wash and bleach all tools, buckets, and vases to reduce the flower’s contact with bacteria. Place the stems immediately in cool water. Remove all foliage that will be below water level in your final arrangement as the foliage will begin to break down under water causing bacteria to begin to grow, giving your flowers a shorter vase life.

Fill the sink or a bowl with 3–4 inches (8–10 cm) of cool water, and put the stem and the snips in the water to recut the stem as you are finally placing the bloom in the arrangement. This way the stem end, which may have dried as you were gathering the flowers, is removed. When you lift the stem after cutting it, you will see that a drop of water is clinging to the stem end, thus protecting the tissue that takes up the water. Re-cutting in that manner every two or three days will remove any stem ends that begin to decay in the water.

Keep the flowers out of direct sunlight and away from heat. Change the water in the vases daily, if possible, to reduce bacteria count. In floral arrangements, you might want to use a commercial flower food that contains both sugar to feed the flower and a bacterial inhibitor to keep the water fresh. Flowers should not be put in a refrigerator that also contains fruit as fruit emits ethylene gas that speeds flower maturity.

To hold buds and flowers for a few days, stand them in a container of water in a cool, dark place. The optimum holding temperature is 33°F (1°C); however, refrigerator temperatures will also slow the maturity. Placing a plastic bag loosely over the buds will help retain moisture that would be pulled out by frost-free refrigerators. Allow two or three days for tight buds to open. To hasten opening, place the stems in warm water in a warm place with good light.

David C. Michener is an associate curator at the University of Michigan, including the Peony Garden at the Nichols Arboretum, where he oversees the rejuvenation of the largest public collection of historic herbaceous peonies in North America.





Carol A. Adelman is the founder of Peony Paradise–Adelman Peony Gardens near Salem, Oregon. She and her husband grow 484 varieties of peonies. Carol is on the board of directors for the American Peony Society, is the president of the Pacific North West Peony Society, and is the charter organizer of the Salem Hardy Plant Society.




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