PEONIES AS CUT FLOWERS
Peonies make excellent cut flowers and you can create your own beautiful bouquets with only a few blossoms, the flowers are so large they create a big visual impact.
Fresh local cut flowers have many benefits for the florist as well as the home owner. Because they are not in storage for transit their vase life is usually better, the flowers are large and bright, and many retain their fragrance. I pick my flowers just before sale to ensure long vase life and big vibrant blossoms.
Cut peonies in the morning making sure that at least two leaves remain on the stem, this ensures that the root has enough leaves left to continue to grow and store food. You can pick the flowers when in full bud but I find that if picked in the soft "marshmallow" stage the vase life is longer and the buds do not have any tiny bugs hiding amongst the petals. You can also cut peony flowers and store them for use at a later date.
Storing Your own Flowers for Later Use
A general rule of thumb is that any peony cut softer, opens sooner, and harder opens later. You can however, cut so soft that when stored they will use up any vase life potential before they are needed, and cut too hard they will never open.
Doubles are picked at the “soft” bud stage or “marshmallow” stage. This stage is not as hard to recognize as you may think. Hold the bottom of the bud between two fingers and press lightly on the top with your thumb, if it feels like a fresh marshmallow it is ready. The double peonies will, at this stage, be showing color and starting to unfurl.
Single, Japanese, and anemone flower forms open up easier than the doubles so they can be cut at a less advanced stage. These can usually be picked when a line of color shows on the bud.
Bomb flower forms should be cut when the bud covers are loosening and an edge of the true petal color is showing.
For short storage needs, the "marshmallow" stage can be used for any type of peony flower.
Commercial cut flower operations pick their peony buds and can successfully store them for up to three months. This practice allows them to extend the marketing season as the peony bloom period is short.
The home gardener or small producer can also save their flowers for a later occasion but because the home refrigerator typically cools to a range of 2-4 C , as opposed to the commercial 0 C, the storage time frame is reduced to two to three weeks. Not all peony flowers are the same though, some varieties have a longer vase life and store better than others but almost all will hold a few days in the vase after storage.
The peony buds are stored dry, packaged in plastic, and placed flat on the shelves of the refrigerator. Alternately they can be stored upright in buckets with a few inches of water.
When storing dry, remove almost all of the leaves as they tend to produce too much moisture when bagged resulting in the buds rotting. Bunch the stems together and place in a plastic bag, any bag will do but the two gallon Ziploc work well, place them flat on the shelves of the refrigerator. Moisture is the key to successful storage, too wet and they mold. Check them periodically, if there is moisture build-up open the bag to vent or place paper towels in the bottom and remove and replace them when they get wet.
Upon removal from storage don’t worry if the blossoms look wilted and the cut ends are dry. Re-cut the stems to expose clean fresh tissue and place upright in a bucket containing warm water. I allow at least 24 hours for opening especially if the flowers are wanted to decorate a special event.
Buds of Largo in various stages, from hard bud stage, to picking stage for storage, and at the top almost open,too late for storage but good for immediate use.