Our Favorite Peoniesby Carol Caggiano on May 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm
To many, the month of May and peonies are synonymous. I have known brides who have set their wedding date in May to ensure they have peonies in their bouquets, and others when they discover they have chosen a time when peonies are not available, consider changing the wedding date. Whether a single gorgeous bloom, a romantic bridal bouquet, or a luscious overflowing vase of peonies, I have witnessed people swooning at the sight of these amazing flowers.
If you are purchasing peonies for yourself as a cut flower, I advise selecting them when they are in their “round hard ball” stage, but make sure you see a little color. Selecting stems that are too immature may result in blooms that will not develop properly. I know it doesn’t look like much when they are at this stage, but they open fairly quickly, usually within twenty-four hours. Also, they transport well when they are in bud, which eliminates concern of damage getting them home and into a vase. You can expect cut peonies to last about a week, and watching them develop is a lovely part of the experience.Peonies are majestic by themselves yet they mix well with many other flowers. Their large size makes them a great choice for focal emphasis in any design, and their delicate colors add a romantic touch to the bouquet. Here I have just used some clear glass bottles, dropping one peony into each with a hosta leaf as accent; a little more modern in interpretation. Peonies are versatile and glorious, no wonder they are favored by so many.
The peony comes from the genus Paeonia. It was named after Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek God of medicine and healing. Asclepius was jealous of Paeon. Zeus, the king of the Greek Gods, in order to save Paeon turned him into a peony flower. Peony flowers are among the longest used in ornamental culture. In the ancient civilizations of China and Japan peonies were revered; known in China as the “flower of riches and honor” and in Japan as the “king of flowers.” You can find the peony motif used in art, as a pattern on fabrics, and even tattoos worked around their distinctive multi-petaled form dating back to ancient times right up to modern day.
There are so many beautiful flowers available, yet the peony stands out. Many, when asked, will state that the peony is their favorite flower. I think size of the flower is appealing along with the combination of the very delicate yet plentiful petal count. Peonies are usually seen in white and shades of pink, from very pale to rich deep magentas. More modern cultivars have produced peonies in yellow, coral and even a bright Christmas red. No one is exactly sure how many species exist, estimating anywhere from 25 to 40.
What I find really interesting is that due to the demand and love of this beautiful flower, it has become a very “global” crop. They are native to Asia, Europe and Western North America, but are now grown almost everywhere. We have seen gorgeous blooms from New Zealand and Chile, which extends the availability of peonies into November, December, and even January. How fantastic to have peonies at Christmas time, so unexpected and elegant. The August bride that had her heart set on peonies can now have them as they are grown in Alaska at that time of year. Shipping can add to the cost but when it is about something so romantic and personal, often the cost is not the first concern. Yet, all that being said, listen to your florist’s recommendations. If he says that it’s not a good time for peonies, believe him. Peonies are available way beyond the predictable month of May, yet quality is often an issue depending on source and weather. Your florist knows best!