I am currently in the midst of the most glorious and highly anticipated time of year — peony season! The challenge with loving this flower is that it also has one of the shortest windows of bloom time to enjoy. One rough, spring storm, or a heat spell can knock down or wither the luscious blooms. About five years ago, I planted ten or so different varieties including Coral Charm, Sarah Bernhardt, Festiva Maxima, and Bowl of Cream — such charming names! Peony bushes and root stocks take about that long to mature and produce more than a just a few flowers. This year, my peony bushes are producing abundantly! I want to squeeze every bit of enjoyment out of this short window of the year, so I devised a little trick.
When the peonies are not yet opened, but have started to show the color of their petals, and they are in a what is described as “marshmallow” phase (if you squeeze them gently, they are a little fluffy to the touch), I snip these and place them in the refrigerator (be sure to gently shake off any ants!). I am also sure to snip just above the next bud on the branch to maximize flower production of the bush, which leaves the stems I am able to take short, but I typically like a tight and low little peony arrangement anyhow. It is important not to snip any of the smaller, tightly compacted green buds because these flowers are not yet fully developed and will never open into flowers later.
I place the marshmallow buds into a glass of cool water with a little floral food, and set them in a Ziploc bag, but I don’t seal the bag. I want to create a protected, slightly moist environment, but do not seal it or else mildew could form and destroy the blooms. I can store my peonies in the fridge for a few weeks this way, and when my bushes are nothing more than a green mass of leaves for the remainder of the season, I can bring these little beauties out for one last hurrah! Give the peonies a fresh snip and fresh water and they should open up within a few hours of returning to room temperature.