My favorite flower, forever and always, is the peony. I just adore it and all of its ruffles. It makes me sad that peony season is so short, but I do think that is part of what makes them so special. It’s a fleeting beauty and so we must enjoy them in abundance while we can!
Of course, Bryce and I talk a lot about the future of our farm. We’ve discussed if we want to ramp up sales of flowers and really push to sell to florists, markets and other outlets. Something that we come back to again and again is the idea of specializing in one flower. And there is no question that if we were to do that, that flower would be the peony. Of course, that requires time and patience as flower farmers must not cut flowers off of their peonies for three years as to allow the roots of the plant to fully develop. Currently, we have about 70 four-year-old peonies with 30 more in the field on year two.
We’ve been putting bundles of peonies out on the honor stand and we’ve had several big orders (for prom!). For the longest vase life one would pick peonies when they are in the “marshmallow” stage of bud. This means that when you squeeze the bud, it feels like a marshmallow. The flowers that we put on the stand are usually just opened. When the field is ready to be harvested, we will cut all usable blooms but, for now (in the garden anyway), I let some flowers open so that we can enjoy their beauty in the garden as well as the vase! I also got a few questions this year about disbudding the smaller offshoot buds on a stem. I actually like a bud or two peeking out in an arrangement, so I don’t take them all off. However, some of my plants have multiple buds and those I do take off so the energy can go into the main flower.
A perpetual problem with peonies is that, when left to open, they get floppy at seemingly the first drop of rain or even just because their heads are so heavy. If rain is predicted, I usually cut all my peonies that have started to open and bring them indoors to enjoy. Those that haven’t opened usually survive just fine. In garden stores and online you can find supports for peonies so that the heavy heads don’t droop. I’ve never had to do that but, this year, several of my stems did crack under the pressure so next year I believe I’ll rig up a support system for them.
We have vases of peonies scattered all over the house. One of the things that I just love about peonies is that it’s so very easy to create a stunning arrangement because the blooms are so big and blousy that all you really have to do is stick them in water!
I always plant my peonies in the fall with tubers that I’ve ordered during the summer (at the latest, it’s always a good idea to place an order while that particular plant is blooming). A favorite supplier was always Song Sparrow but I’m disappointed to report that they seemed to have closed. I’ve also ordered from Hollingsworth and have been pleased with the quality. I have found that not all suppliers are created equal so do take care who you order from! I promise you will not regret planting a few peonies in your garden!