Peonies have been sharing their beauty with the planet since 1000 B.C. It’s believed they were first grown in China eventually finding their way to Japan, Europe and North America. In ancient times peony roots were used medicinally for epilepsy, headaches, asthma, nervous disorders and childbirth. Today scientists are researching the healing properties of the alkaloids and glucosides found in the roots of peonies.
Requiring 30 consecutive days below freezing, peonies grow in zones 2-8, favouring the full sun. Potted peonies from nurseries can be planted in well-drained soil in either the spring or fall, however, if you are dividing roots (with 2-3 clear eyes visible on each section), it’s best to plant in the fall when the plant is dormant. Tubers should be planted no deeper than 2″, or they may never bloom. After the first frost cut plants down to 3-4 inches above the ground. If you mulch in the fall, it is important to clear away the mulch from the base of the plant in early spring. Be patient as new plants may take up to 3 years to start to bloom but once established may live for up to 100 years.
*Peonies are rabbit proof.
*diagram for planting and/or transplanting
Ants feed on the sugary nectar found on the buds that disappears once the flower opens. Ants are not required for the flowers to open. Cut flower heads can be rinsed under water to get rid of any ants hiding deep within the petals.
If flowers are cut just as the buds are about to open it’s possible for them to open and stay fresh in a vase for up to 10 days. To extend the peony season cut flowers in the bud phase (with no more than 2-3 leaves) and place in a Ziploc bag. Tightly seal and refrigerate at 2-4 degrees Celcius for up to 2 months. When you want to use the peonies just recut the stem and place in fresh water. The buds will open in several days. I tried this last year and it worked beautifully. I have many peony plants and can’t possibly use them all in the couple weeks of June that they are blooming. This way you can have peonies in your home for the whole summer.
A delicate peony perfume fragrance can be found in Miss Dior Cherie “Blooming Bouquet”. Mandarin is the top note, peony is the heart with a trace of white musk is the base note.
If you are lucky to be in Paris in late Spring you will find an abundance of peonies at the street markets. Flower vendors display enticing buckets (and buckets) of peonies in every colour making it impossible to pass by without bringing back at least a few (or many!) to brighten any hotel room for the duration of your stay.
Where you can find peonies in Paris (from “dark blue stripes” blog June 4, 2017)
June is wedding month. Many brides include peonies in their wedding bouquets as a symbol of romance, prosperity and a happy marriage. It is a tradition to give peonies as a gift for the 12th wedding anniversary.
Sarah Bernhardt peony…my favourite