Are your peonies in a bunch? Ours are! The past week we’ve been in the field picking peonies with big fat smiles on our faces. It’s finally peony time and we are going to wallow in their glory for the next few weeks because we know they won’t last long. Like a flash in a pan, the peonies are one of the fastest moving crops and they’re always gone too soon.
Each spring, we watch the plants begin to wake up and quickly become covered with baubles of buds that seem to float over the canopy of leaves. The anticipation of what the field will look like in full flush always makes our seasonal newbies extra giddy. Those of us who have been around the farm for a few seasons, however, chuckle because we know that they’ll be harvested before the blooms can create the colorful blanket the newbies think is coming. Every day begins and ends with a peony harvest (though the middle of the day is sprinkled with a few quick snips, too.) With bright sunshine and climbing temperatures, the tight buds will swell to a harvestable stage within hours.
We inspect the buds by touch and when they feel like firm marshmallows we know they are at the perfect stage for storing them dry in our cooler. The goal is to never have a single flower actually bloom in the field. A total bummer to those who were hoping to be surrounded by a sea of flowers, you’ll have better luck getting a selfie with all the budded stems in the cooler. Some are harvested a little too close to bloom and are stored in water for fresh immediate sale, and the rest are sorted and graded into dry storage.
Since our peonies typically bloom over a three-week period, there are thousands of stems that will need to be stored in the cooler along with all our other flowering crops. So, we dry store our peonies to maximize our space. Dry storage is where we store the flowers out of water. Almost every flower we grow is harvested into water and stays in water throughout its lifecycle. Peonies are one of the few flowers that can be dry stored without compromising quality or vase life. While dry stored peonies might look dehydrated and limp, all it takes is a fresh angled snip and a long soak in fresh water overnight to make a tight bud can put on a spectacular show.
If you have peonies at home and a spare fridge, you can totally try this trick too. After you harvest your blooms, remove all of the foliage to prevent molding and unnecessary energy when rehydrating. Then, loosely wrap your bunches in newspaper. Since we go through ours so fast, we store them in cardboard boxes. You can potentially hold peonies up to two months this way, and while I’ve heard tales they could keep longer, I’ve found the longer they're dry-stored, the shorter the vase life. If your blooms are stored for a really long time, they may only last a few hours. Two months is my limit and I’d only keep them that long if I needed them for my personal design work.
While we tend to sell out well before we tire of the beauty they provide, they sure make our May month sweeter. Every order that I can tuck peonies into you better believe, I do it. If there was ever a flower we can all enjoy, its the peony. What a babe. I will pick my peonies all day long, I don’t care who’s watchin’!