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Gossamer Beauties

Don’t let the gossamer petals fool you. Peonies have everything you would want in a cut flower.

Despite their fragile appearance these lightly fragrant blossoms are quite long lasting. The stems are sturdy, and are easy to work with.

In recent years peonies have become very chic. They’re a favorite for fashionable events, weddings, and parties.

Whatever color scheme you’re planning, peonies should fit in nicely. The bright blooms may be white, varying shades of pink or red, green, or yellow with yellow centers. Some have rich splashes of dark red or brown towards the base of the silky petals.

Peony flowers tend to be large. Some of the ones I grow are dinner-plate size. There are both singles and doubles.

Peonies are a seasonal flower. They usually aren’t grown in greenhouses. So the price might be somewhat higher than the flowers you can buy year-round.

Here in the Northeast peonies bloom in late May. In warmer areas they begin to open several weeks earlier.

If you’ve ever thought about growing your own peonies, it isn’t that hard. The plants will take some time to get established. Then they can live for many decades. Some have lasted for over a hundred years. Each plant will have several dozen blooms.

Most peonies are hardy in USDA zones 4-8. They don’t mind cold winters, but they can’t tolerate much summer heat.

Tree peonies are very special. These do best in the Northeast and Midwest. The plants tend to cost more than those of ordinary peonies.

Peonies are suitable for every kind of décor. They’re sleek enough to fit into minimalist, postmodern styles.

Yet they’re also very suited to historical and period homes, since these plants are heirlooms. After all they’re been around for at least a thousand years.

Peonies have been grown in China since ancient times. From there their culture spread to the Islamic world. Eventually they reached Europe.

Once they were used for medicinal purposes, which probably explains their presence in medieval monastery gardens. According to Diana Wells, author of “100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names,” the word “paean” is derived from the healing power of the physician. (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill published this book.) It referred to a hymn of praise to Apollo, the god of healing.

By the time they were introduced to the New World, peonies were grown more for ornamental purposes.

Peonies are just one of the delightful spring cut flowers.

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