The beautiful peony…everyone’s favourite flower

The beautiful peony…everyone’s favourite flower

They enjoy their moment in the spotlight for such a short time each year, available from mid April to the end of June, depending on the variety and local climate. This relatively short blooming season, lasting only a few weeks, along with their extravagant flowers helps explain why we love them so much, and why brides the world over covet them more than any other single flower.

So what is it about this extravagant, blousy, beauty that captivates us so much?

The main reason has to be their exceptional good looks! With many varieties having multi layered ruffled soft, velvety petals that burst from the flower’s centre which seem so romantic whilst others have beautiful elegant cups of single petals with a cluster of golden stamens at their centre that have a wilder, joyous look.

There’s also their wide range of colour from soft and muted to strong and vibrant. This diverse colour palette ranges from pure white and delicate pinky peach pastels to bold, saturated tones in pink, red, coral and yellow. 

Maybe some of us also love their role in nature, with those golden stamens tipped with pollen-laden anthers, contributing to the flower's reproductive cycle and inviting the attention of many pollinators.

Then on top of all this, many varieties are blessed with a gorgeous fragrance, often delicate, sometimes heady and with so many flowers lacking fragrance this definitely adds to their appeal.


Peonies - rich in symbolism

In Asian cultures, particularly in China and Japan,where they’ve been cultivated for around 4,000 years,  they’re celebrated as talismans of honour, good fortune and a happy marriage. They’ve also been used in traditional Chinese medicine for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. 

In Western culture they represent beauty, romance and prosperity. 


Peonies in the United Kingdom

Here in the UK we associate them with the start of Summer and the promise of sunny days ahead. They were introduced from their native Asia centuries ago, likely through trade routes established during the Silk Road era. Their beauty quickly captured the attention of British gardeners and aristocracy, leading to their cultivation in gardens across the country.

But it was the Victorian era that saw a resurgence of interest in gardening and horticulture, and peonies remained a popular choice for ornamental gardens. They were often featured in elaborate flower arrangements and were prized for their lush, romantic blooms.

Loved by home gardeners too, we often associate them with nostalgic memories of childhood and being grown by grandparents. Considered to be relatively low-maintenance, these perennials require only well-drained soil, plenty of space and sunlight, and occasional pruning to thrive. Once established, they can bloom prolifically year after year.

They’ve been depicted widely in art and poetry in both Eastern and Western cultures. It’s probably the bloom’s transient nature and impermanence; that suggestion of the inevitability of ending or dying that has parallels with human life and nature that makes them an interesting subject to creatives.

Peony - cut flower care tips to make them last!

So, you’ve got a beautiful bunch of peonies home or picked some from your garden, how do we care for peonies as cut flowers?

If cutting from your own garden, do so early in the morning when they are well-hydrated. Choose blooms that have just started to open, with at least one-third of the buds showing colour. Avoid cutting flowers that are fully open, as they will not last as long in a vase.

When choosing from your florist or supermarket, the more open the flower the less time they’ll last in the vase. Try and choose a mix of buds and barely open blooms.

  1. Cut the stems at a 45-degree angle with sharp scissors to the desired length, and remove any leaves that will be submerged in water to prevent bacterial growth.
  2. Immediately after cutting, place the stems in a deep vase of fresh, cool water. Choose a clean vase that is tall enough to support the peony stems and has plenty of room for the flowers to open fully. Add flower food at this stage if you wish, although we don’t use it.
  3. Keep the vase of peonies away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and drafts and the cooler the room, the longer they’ll last in the vase. 
  4. Change the water every 2-3 days and recut the stems at an angle to ensure they can continue to take up water. With proper care, peony cut flowers have a vase life of 5-7 days, often more.

Now sit back and enjoy the fleeting appearance of these beautiful flowers…

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