Cut Perfect Peonies

With their beautiful buds and lovely fragrance, peonies just might be the perfect flower. In bloom throughout May and into June, we adore seeing them brighten up the outdoors—and can’t help but bring some inside to liven up our interiors. To help us preserve our plants and procure perfectly cut flowers, we reached out to Kathleen Gagan of Northern New Jersey-based Peony’s Envy for advice; here are her recommendations:

When to Cut: Herbaceous peonies make some of the best cut flowers available. If you’d like to use your peonies as cut flowers, cut the buds when they are hard like marbles but have begun to show color. Bringing the flowers inside at this point allows them to open at a slower rate, as they are opening in the cool of your house instead of the heat of the garden.

Where to Cut: When cutting plants of any type it is important to never cut off more than a third of the greenery, as any more than this will have detrimental effects on the plant. Following the logic of the rule of thirds, you can take a higher number of flowers with short stems than you can flowers with long stems. When cutting, we try to leave as many of the leaves on the plant as possible to ensure that the plant is able to store enough energy through photosynthesis that it can produce healthy flowers the following year. Different cultivars will have slightly different stem length as some produce flowers right above the greenery while others have flowers that tower a few feet above the plant.

Avoiding Ants: If you are worried about ants when bringing cut flowers into the house, simply cut the flowers when the buds are still closed, making the ants easy to shake off. Another way to keep ants from entering the home is to cut your flowers in the evening when there tend to be fewer ants on the buds.

How to Save: To preserve your herbaceous flowers for weeks after their bloom time, simply cut them in the stage stated above and store them in the refrigerator. They can be stored in a vase with water, protected by a flower sleeve, for up to six months if you continually change out the water. They can also be stored in the refrigerator without water, placed on their side, wrapped in newspaper for a few weeks. They will rehydrate when placed in water. Note that the flowers will dehydrate in a frost free refrigerator; flowers should be stored in an old fashioned refrigerator or a floral refrigerator.

Expert tip from Kathleen Gagan of Peony’s Envy in Bernardsville, NJ. For additional information and tips on peonies, see Kathleen’s segment on The Martha Stewart show here. Image from TSG Atlanta’s instagram.