fresh flower


Everything you need to know about these delightfully fragrant, huge-headed harbingers of spring.

cut two ways   Among the 33 species in the Paeonia (peony) genus, two are most commonly grown for cut flowers: P. officinalis (common peony, wild peony, European wild peony), which is of European origin, and P. lactiflora (Chinese peony), which is of Asian origin. The Paeonia genus is a member of the small Paeoniaceae family, the only other member of which is Glaucidium, a poppylike flower.

2  by the thousands   In addition to emanating delightful scents, peonies are available in a huge range of colors and forms; approximately 2,600 varieties exist. Colors include a multitude of pink and red hues as well as purple, salmon, apricot, white, ivory/cream, yellow and bicolors.

  Flower forms include single, double, semidouble, Japanese (single, with large yellow centers), and anemone (single, with powder-puff centers). Double-flowered varieties are the most common as cut flowers in the United States while single-flowered varieties are widely sold in Europe and Asia.

3  selling season   Still truly seasonal flowers, peonies are available from both domestic and foreign growers from about March through August, with peak season being April, May and June. Most white varieties bloom early in the season, so remember this when selling white peonies for weddings, parties and other orders.

4  ready to pop   Purchase peonies in the “puffy” stage, when the buds are about to open. Growers cut each variety at a different stage of bud development to ensure flower opening, but most varieties are cut in a tight bud stage, with only a trace of color visible. This keeps the blooms from getting damaged in transit and allows for the longest possible vase life. Watch out for overly tight buds; they will never open.

5  fungus among us   Once your peonies arrive, immediately remove them from the shipping boxes. Peonies are susceptible to Botrytis (gray mold), which will rot the entire flower heads. Botrytis loves dark, moist environments, such as inside shipping boxes, and thrives with changes in shipping temperature. It is more prevalent during wet growing seasons and on double flower varieties. Remove any flowers contaminated with Botrytis from the bunch(es), and notify your supplier.

6  on the water front   After checking the quality of the flowers, recut the stems with a sharp knife or pruner, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Immediately after cutting, dip or place the stem ends into a hydration solution, then place them into containers half filled with warm (100 F to 110 F) properly proportioned flower-food solution. The hydration solution will help the flowers absorb water after being shipped or stored dry.

  If peonies appear wilted or otherwise water stressed when they arrive, submerge the stems up to the blooms in room-temperature water for 20 minutes before processing them.

7  cool their heels   After processing peonies, place them into a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before using or selling them. Peonies are heavy drinkers, so check their water supply often. Depending on variety, peonies can begin opening almost immediately after being placed into water, but immediate refrigeration can slow that process.

8  facts of life   If properly cared for from farm to florist, peonies will give consumers two to seven days of vase life, depending on variety.

9  cut and dried   If you don’t need peonies immediately, you can store bud-stage peonies dry (out of water) in a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F for up to three weeks. Opening blooms, however, must be placed into flower-food solution immediately.

10  big heads   Peony blooms can open to 6 inches in diameter or larger. In designs, leave enough space for the flowers to open fully. If any flower heads are too heavy to be supported upright by the stems, wire them to prevent them from flopping.

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