Flora 101: Peony Party

In a world where so many flowers are available all year round, it's nice to know that some flowers are still elusive outside of their natural season. While it might shatter the dreams of a winter bride, the limited availability of the peony makes them all the more luxurious in my opinion. In fact, is there any bridal bouquet more decadent than a fluffy white cloud of pure peonies? I think not.

Peonies flower from May to June and come in and array of gorgeous colours from pure white and pale pinks, to more vibrant coral, deep pinks and reds. They also have a range of forms from anemone style, with gorgeous open centres of yellow stamen; to the sumptuous doubles, with their tightly packed ruffled petals creating and irresistible little cloud of scent. Starting as a tightly packed little balls of petals, peonies slowly begin to unfurl, often changing colour as they begin to open up.

Little Ice Cream Scoops: These un-opened peonies look good enough to eat!

Definitely the 'it' flower for late spring and early summer brides, the peony lends itself well to all different kinds of wedding arrangements, and depending on what you pair it with, can suit a range of styles from opulent black tie events, to more relaxed country garden style weddings.

Want to grow your own peonies? Plant them as tubers in the autumn or buy potted plants to plant out in spring time. They prefer full sun and rich soil that's been improved my mixing in manure or a good quality compost. Be sure not to plant them too deep as this can cause them to struggle to flower well, and as with most plants, water them well in the first season to help them establish. They are perennial plants, so will come back each year, so you can enjoy them again and again. If you are using them for cutting, cut them while they are at the 'marshmallow' phase. This is when they are still in bud, but will have a slight squishy feeling when you squeeze them. If you cut them while they are too tight, they may not open up at all!

Sarah Bernhardt: See how the peony unfurls from a tight little bud to (almost!) fully open bloom.


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