Learn how and when to cut these luscious bloomers.
Image courtesy of Janae Shields
Savor the sumptuous scents and silky petals of peonies indoors. Gathering a peony bouquet is one of the easier tasks on the spring gardening calendar. Whether you clip a single bloom to grace a breakfast table or harvest a vase full of flowers for a mantle, you’ll never regret making a peony bouquet.
Peony plants strut their stuff in spring. Some herbaceous peonies flower in tandem with late tulips and daffodils, but most peonies unfurl their buds after bulbs take their last bow. Spring is all about color in the garden, and bringing a peony bouquet indoors brings the seasonal celebration inside.
The trickiest part of picking a peony bouquet is mastering the right stage to cut a blossom. Cut too soon, and flower buds won’t open. Cut too late, and flowers will last just a day or two. For a long-lasting peony bouquet, you want to cut flowers at what’s known as the marshmallow stage.
The flower buds should be showing some color—the green covering should definitely be cracked open. If you gently squeeze the flower bud, it should have the consistency of a large marshmallow. The feel should have a little give but also offer some gentle resistance. Marble stage buds, flower buds that feel like a hard marble, are less likely to open in a vase. Realize, however, that a fully double peony flower bud that’s ripe for cutting will have a looser feel than a single flower type with fewer petals.
When you cut flowers before they’re fully open, you’ll be less likely to carry ants indoors. A simple shake should send any ants on the opening buds scurrying for cover. Use sharp clippers or scissors to cut through peony stems. The best time of day to gather flowers for peony bouquets is early morning, while buds are still cool, or late evening. You can also clip stems on cloudy, cooler days during the afternoon.
As you clip stems from one particular plant, you can safely remove one-third of the flowers on the peony if you’re clipping the entire stem. You can cut as many blooms as you like for peony bouquets if you cut only a 10- to 12-inch-long stem. Peonies are perennials, and your plants need some leaves to create a food supply in the roots to fuel next year’s flower show.
Peony leaves, by the way, make a handsome addition to summer foliage arrangements or to mixes of garden flowers. The dark, shiny leaves provide a handsome backdrop for other colors, and peony leaves usually outlast most flowers in bouquets.
You don’t have to plunge freshly cut stems into water in the garden as you cut, although it’s okay to do that. If you bring them indoors dry, remove the lower one to two inches from stems and rehydrate the flowers in a warm rehydrating solution. Make your own by mixing equal parts warm tap water and a clear carbonated beverage similar to 7-UP. Add one teaspoon of bleach per quart of solution. You can also use commercial flower food (those packets you get from the florist) to rehydrate your flowers. Keep your vase filled with flower food solution.