A Passion for Peonies: Now and in 6 months!

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If you’re like me, you are crazy for peonies and the season to enjoy them is just too short.  It is peony time in my garden and I am cutting these beauties as fast as they bloom,  to fill the house with their intoxicating perfume and showy flowers. I just can’t get enough of them!  Hélas, their showtime is limited and the bliss is much too short lived.

 

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Last year I visited a peony farm in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania where the famous Eleanor Tickner grows 2,000 peonies.  Talk about a thrill.  But it wasn’t the amazing peony show that blew my mind as much as the stunning secret I learned from Eleanor:  you can refrigerate cut peonies for up to 6 months to enjoy them long after their growing season has passed!   Say again????  How could I not have known this after growing peonies for more than 20 years?   To read more about Eleanor Tickner, please click here:

http://www.hardyplant.org/articles/peony%200211.pdf

I experimented and I am here to tell you that Eleanor’s technique works!  Here is how to extend the bloom time of peonies:

For double flower varieties, cut the peonies in bud stage just as the bud is opening.  Avoid the very tight buds and choose buds that pass the “soft marshmallow squeeze test”.

The bud on the left is of a good size to cut; the ones on the right are still too tight to cut

The bud on the left is of a good size to cut and passes the squeezable marshmallow test;  the ones on the right are still too tight to cut

 

Remove all foliage and keep the stem at a desired length.  Place in a ziplock bag(1 or 2 gallon size) and fill with your cut flowers, laying them flat.  Place in your refrigerator for up to 6 months.  When you are ready to use your flowers, recut the tip, place in a deep vase of water and enjoy seeing your peonies open in about 12 hours.  It is a sight to behold!   Even the ants that ended up in the peonies I had cut survived this long cold hibernation, much to my surprise and amusement!

Cut peonies before foliage removal

Cut peonies before foliage removal for cold storage; the lower one is the ideal size

Cut peonies going into storage, foliage removed, in a ziplock bag

Cut peonies going into storage, foliage removed, in a ziplock bag

Peonies laying flat in the refrigerator for later use

Peonies laying flat in the refrigerator for later use

With single flower varieties, there is only a slight modification:  they should be cut in a tighter bud stage as they open more quickly.  No marshmallow squeezing test here!  You want a harder bud in these varieties.

Tighter bud stage to cut single flower varieties for cold storage

Tighter bud stage to cut
single flower varieties for cold storage

A good rule of thumb for this technique is that tighter blooms will take longer to open while softer blooms will open more quickly.  Be aware that buds can be cut so hard, they may never open.  In thinking ahead of how you will use these peonies, you may decide you want some buds in your bouquets and in that case may want to include a few tight buds to store.

This is not an exact science and you may find some of your peonies do not open ideally.  If you are needing the flowers for a special occasion such as a wedding, cut twice as many as you ideally need to allow for losses.  I hope you are as excited as I am at the prospect of having peonies in bloom from your garden post-season!  Get cutting your peonies now, for future enjoyment.  You will be thanking me later!

Camille Pisarro's A Vase of Peonies, 1875, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

Camille Pisarro’s A Vase of Peonies, 1875, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

“Peonies are like roses but without thorns and have flowers twice as large!” Anonymous

Sent from my iPad

12 thoughts on “A Passion for Peonies: Now and in 6 months!

  1. Amazing! My peonies are already done blooming this year, but I will remember this trick next spring.

  2. Les miennes sortent seulement de la terre quelques bourgeons.. J ai tres hate cheque annees de les retrouvees je Vais definitivement en mettre dans le congelateur…encore Merci pour ces bonnes idees..!xo

  3. Wow, I love all the tips. I had no idea at all that you could store Peonies for later enjoyment. I am astounded and will try this next year. Here in the Southern USA our Peonies have come and gone but it was a terrific season and they were beautiful, but short-lived. Thanks so much and wonderful post.

    • Will look forward to hearing how your peonies fare next year, Theresa! It was so exciting to find out about this tip! Thanks for reading my blog and your kind comments.

      Sent from my iPad

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  4. Never, never, never have I heard of being able to preserve peonies for later use! I LOVE the idea of doing this! I don’t know that I would ever have enough refrigerator space, but still…I love the idea of it! Pinning!!!!!!!

    • Amazing isn’t? You are becoming my top pinner, Alycia! Thank you. Pinterest doesn’t tell me when you’ve pinned like when others do. ??? Another of those strange things I don’t understand but keep those pins coming! I am honored! 🙂

      Sent from my iPad

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