Courtney Warren is a Texas-based interior designer whose work has been featured in Real Simple, Better Homes & Gardens, Good Housekeeping, Apartment Therapy, and Today.com. She is a frequent consultant on Fox 4 TV’s Good Day program in Dallas, was ranked in the top 3 percent of interior designers in the US by Houzz.com, and starred in the Dallas episode of TLC’sFour Houses. She delights in helping overwhelmed clients create beautiful spaces—and will never turn down a warm chocolate chip cookie or Diet Dr Pepper.
If you saw my recent post about my retro cool Father’s Day brunch, you know that I find a way to have flowers at every event, even a “manly” meal. And one of my favorite blooms to feature anytime is the big showy peony. For beautiful pastel color and old fashioned beauty, peonies can hardly be beat. Their scent is amazing, too–light and rosy with maybe just a hint of citrus. They’ve really surged in popularity lately: everywhere on the web we’re seeing photos and posts and questions about peonies!
Because they’re spring bloomers (and probably because they symbolize good fortune and happy marriage), peonies are a popular choice for bridal bouquets. But you’d better plan a spring or early summer wedding if you want peonies.
Peonies only bloom for a week to ten days! In Texas, if we have the patience to nurture them, we get peonies about the same time we get tulips. That would be late February to early March for the tree types, or April-June for the various shrub types. But the imports from colder states (where peonies actually do better than here) arrive until June.
Whether you get peonies from your garden, grocer, or florist, you can enjoy and display their extravagant blooms for a glorious season. I sure do! They are typically closed when you buy them because the growers want them to arrive at their peak show for you. Hmm, if they’re closed when you get them, how do you get your fresh peonies to open?
Sometimes my fresh peony blooms aren’t ready when I am. That’s when I try what the flower experts advise: trimming off extra foliage, putting them in warm water with that little flower food packet, and cutting the stems at an angle so they take up the most water quickly.
If all else fails, you can actually turn a bud on its head and tap it (gently!) on the countertop to wake it up. If that doesn’t do it, keeping them in a bright warm room, or covering lightly with a plastic bag–even a little swish of the heads in lukewarm water can cause peonies to open up.
How to care for cut peonies
Where to buy peonies in texas
Did you know peonies have been called the Queen of Flowers? It’s easy to see why, with that “overblown rose” look that I love so much! You can’t imagine how many different varieties there are, and some can produce blooms up to 10 inches across. What? Like a dinner plate? Now that’s showy! I don’t necessarily look for the biggest ones, but I do tend to pick the softest colors, especially the pinks and whites, for arrangements.
For my recent Dad’s Day retro brunch’s primary arrangement, I paired peonies with another old-fashioned garden favorite, hydrangeas. See how the tight buds of the peonies open up and show off their ruffly insides?
Peonies can make the most extravagant arrangements!
Now, my peonies all come from a supplier, not from my garden, so I’m not your peonies-growing expert. But there are a lot of peonies gardeners out there,and if you love to garden, you know where to find advice.
I was a bit surprised to learn that you can grow peonies in Texas, because most varieties need several weeks of winter chill to make them bloom in the spring. And we never know, down here in growing zones 7-9, whether we’ll get enough cold at the right time to chill those waiting peony buds! (I read of a gardener in our zone who dumped a weekly bag of ice on her plants in December and early January to get the effect!)
And our soil here in north Texas is heavy clay, so it really has to be amended a LOT to get it to drain well, which is what peonies like. But hey, if you’re up for finding the right sun/shade combo in your yard and seeing them through the hot summer with a lot of water, I say go for it! I hear it could take a couple years or more for the first blooms to appear, so be prepared to be patient!
Instead of growing peonies, though, I have all my fun arranging them. See how peonies are the stars in this arrangement I made for my farmhouse table setting? I partnered them with sweet yellow roses and fern in a wooden crock. It kinda said “vintage garden” to me.
Even a single peony in a mason jar can steal the show. Peonies aren’t trying to show off, but they just can’t help themselves! Here it is in all its humble glory, welcoming guests to my impromptu cookies and lemonade fete.
You MIGHT get the very last peonies of the season (probably from northern Michigan!) for your July 4th party. These peonies’ crisp white blooms were just what I needed for my red, white and blue table. Peonies are so versatile–they’ll dress up or dress down. For my patriotic scheme, they were happy to grace the festivities in an old red and white cola can.
Because they’re such sweet, old fashioned, showy garden flowers, peonies have had a loyal following from past generations. But their heavenly, big blooms are winning them new fans as well.
Have you discovered peonies? What are your other flower favorites? How do you like to arrange them? Send a photo to my Facebook page!
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