The Peony - Not Just for Spring

The peony has often been called the queen of the garden. Her massive blooms in a range of gorgeous colors in shades of white, pink, red and even yellow make stunning specimen plantings in the home landscape and can be used to create the most elegant floral arrangement in a vase.

And then there’s the fragrance. Although some peonies have little to no fragrance, many are wonderfully perfumed. In some their scent is wonderfully spicy, while others are rich and flowery. Some varieties have a fragrance with hints of roses, gardenias or lilacs. Still others, like Garden Treasure, have the clean, fresh sent of citrus lemon.

The queen, however, has one flaw-—her period of bloom is short-lived. Some varieties put on their colorful show for only a week or two at best. Then they are done until next year. Gardeners can compensate for this by choosing varieties that have different bloom sequences. Because different varieties come into bloom at different times, the gardener can have a good 6 weeks of peony blooms. The season might start with dainty fern leaf or exotic tree peonies. Then comes the hybrids like Lady Gay or Roy’s Best Yellow. Next in order of bloom are peonies like Rubra Plena or Red Charm, which have the species peony Officinalis in their heritage. Finally there is the procession of lactiflora peonies, beginning with varieties like Edulis Superba and continuing through the mid-season with a variety like Kansas and running through very late peonies such as Ann Cousins, Jacorma or Lady Kate.

But there is a way to extend the beauty of peonies further in your life. Simply cut some peony stems in the bud stage and store them dry (not in water) in a refrigerator. Here on our flower farm we’ve successfully kept them up to 12 weeks in the walk-in cooler we have specially designed to keep peonies at about 31 F degrees. But in just a typical refrigerator, peonies can be easily kept for a month or more. To protect them from drying out, just wrap enough stems for a bouquet in plastic. They will wilt some, but to revive them bring them out, unwrap, cut an inch or so from the bottom of the stem and put them into water. They'll open beautifully in just a few hours. Peonies in July or even August-—no problem.