Peonies – Week 1

Peony

Peony (Photography by Michael Lant - click on image to enlarge)

Why The Peony As The First Flower?

I have so many favourite flowers that choosing the first flower for my blog was a challenge to say the least. So, to help me make a decision and finally get on with my task I reached out to my network of girlfriends and asked them for the name of their favourite flower. To my surprise the Peony (pee’-uh-nee) appeared on that list over and over. So, because it is June – the blooming time of this charming flower – I decided this was the clear winner.

My fondest memory of the Peony is of the huge drooping bushes lined up along the front of a dilapidated old brick farmhouse belonging to a friend of my mother. I was entranced by the crazy big pink blooms that weighted down the branches and longed to grab them by the armful and take them home with me. But my mother absolutely abhorred these flowers and made it abundantly clear that there was no way those beasts were getting into her house. However, I always managed to sneak away with a few stems tucked into a mason jar which I happily used to decorate my tree fort. Even as a child I felt compelled to embellish my surroundings with beautiful things…

Apparently the peony is named after Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing who became jealous of his pupil and tried to get rid of him. Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower.

Peonies are a perennial plant whose origins are from the Far East and Europe where it was used through the Medieval and Middle Ages for medicinal uses. The gorgeous peony flower has made this plant a favourite and you can find it growing in many a perennial bed throughout North America today. The striking flowers bloom in early summer in colours ranging from pure white to shades of pinks and reds. The floral meaning of Peony is “happy marriage and happy life” so it seems fitting that this lovely flower is so popular for June weddings.

Cut peonies can last up to two weeks or longer, especially if you get them when the flower is still in the late bud stage. Care for them by changing the water regularly to help prevent bacteria and trim ½” off the bottom at an angle with each water change. Keep them out of direct sunlight and heat sources. If you want them for a specific occasion such as a wedding or event, they should be in full bloom or close to full bloom. Their spectacular, fluffy show and heady scent will garner much attention and many complements.

Peony Flower Arrangement Recipe and Instructions:

The peony is forever in my memory as a country flower blooming happily under an old shed next to a vegetable garden. This contemporary version of my childhood mason jar design pays homage to that memory. I pulled from my own back yard 3 greens to add texture and interest – chives from the herb garden, hosta and vinca vine from under our huge Linden tree – but you could substitute ivy for the vinca and allium for the chives.

Ingredients

•    5 large peony blooms
•    Handful of chives
•    5 small hosta leaves, preferably variegated
•    Vinca vine
•    4” square ceramic vase
•    Narrow florist tape (found at any craft store)
•    Floral food

Instructions

1.    Fill the vase to half way with water and add ½ of a packet of floral food.
2.    Create a grid across the vase opening with two pieces of florist tape positioned across the length and 2 across the width. This will provide you with 3×3 grid of tape with nine openings to insert your stems. I use this grid system because it makes it easier to keep the stems where you position them in the vase.
3.    Cut the stems of four peonies and position one in each vase corner with the stem end pointing into the opposite corner. You will have a criss-cross effect once the 4 stems are positioned in the 4 corners. Cut the final bloom a bit shorter than the others and place it in the center of the grid. This bloom should be resting slightly above the level of the other 4 blooms so the finished appearance of the arrangement is slightly domed.
4.    Position 3 hosta leaves in one corner of the vase, under the bloom and the remaining 2 hosta leaves in the opposite corner.
5.    Wrap the chives into a loose bunch using a small piece of florist tape. Position the chive bundle in the centre back part of the grid. This adds some height to the arrangement but keeps the look soft.
6.    Push the cut end of the vine into the same part of the grid as the chive bundle. Make sure you push it far enough into the vase so that it holds its position. Wrap the vine around the peonies so it lays gently on the surface of the blooms, tucking the loose end into a secure position near the back of the arrangement or just let it hang freely.
7.    Place your lovely creation on your kitchen table, pour the lemonade and enjoy.

Next week I will be sweet on the Sweet Pea.

Quote of the week:
Bloom where you are planted. (Mary Engelbreit)

I look forward to reading your comments.

Liz

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8 Comments

  1. Posted June 29, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Hi Liz, What a wonderful idea for a year of love. To open your page and see MY red Gerber there, exactly as I have on my deck blooming, was a wonder for me. My peonies are deep purple/red and bent over from the rain. Roses and all my wonderful lilies and wild things are growing like topsey. If you ever decide to do a year of herbs–wild, I would love to be the wild lady to assist with that! I have 71-medicinal that I know of growing on 1 acre here. I am surrouned with wild energy. Hard to keep a good garden deva down! Love from AWM’s mum. Roberta

  2. Posted June 29, 2010 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    Lovely idea to add chives to the arrangement -I can’t wait to try it! Will also try mint, bergamot, and maybe basil and make a perfumed bedside table arrangement!

    Thanks Liz!
    Rosie

    • Posted June 29, 2010 at 5:17 am | Permalink

      delicious and fragrant!

  3. Erin
    Posted June 28, 2010 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Oh wow – I so wish I had seen this earlier so I could have tried this stunning arrangement on Saturday! Your blog will be my first stop before every dinner party… I may not be able to cook – but now my table will always look beautiful. :)

  4. Dwyn
    Posted June 28, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Right about now we drive north of Owen Sound, ON for the July 1st holiday. The first thing I do is stick my nose into the mass of peonies and inhale. It’s a deep pink circle about 5′ wide that has been there many years longer than the 23 I have been going. What is it about that people love so much about peonies? (except for Liz’s mother!) They are so joyous and their scent so uplifting. This is the perfect first choice for your 52 weeks/52 flowers.

    Can we post pictures too?

    • Posted June 28, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      That it sounds like a really interesting idea but that I will have to check with the web developer.

  5. Wendy Armstrong-Gibs
    Posted June 28, 2010 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    Good Morning – what a cheery way to begin a grey morning by reading about peonies. Thank you, Liz, for the chuckle, as I do indeed remember the peonies growing next door and knowing very clearly that they must not cross the threshold of our home! As an educator, it is so sweet to see the children arrive with the handful of peonies for their teachers in June. They not only add lots of colour but add a sweet fragrance to the classrooms.

    • Posted June 28, 2010 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      I love that you remember Bernice’s peonies too. Does the principal also get handfuls of peonies from her students?