In the last couple of weeks, the peony season is in full swing. Millions of the most pretty flowers in the flower industry - I think we can all agree on that - are being harvested from the fields. Talking about European peonies grown in outdoor fields, the season for peonies starts in the south of Europe, then France, and now the Dutch peonies are also ready for harvesting. Peonies are grown everywhere.
Hundreds of Peony Varieties
Depending on which variety, if it is an early, mid, or late blooming plant, you can find a wide range of varieties. In total hundreds of varieties are being sold on the markets. Most of the varieties are ancient species and have been on the market for decades. To propagate peonies and find new varieties is very hard because to multiply a plant takes many, many years.
Varieties with names such as Peony Sarah Bernhardt, Duchesse de Nemours, and Monsieur Jules Elie, are really old varieties and have proven to be really good in production and flowering. Peonies are also a crop for a grower that has patience. That is because once the young plants/roots are being planted, it takes about three years before you have full production and the right quality of flowers.
Many Peonies Are Sold Too Raw
Knowing this, and understanding all the hard labor which has gone into the cultivation of peonies, it is for many peony enthusiasts difficult to understand why many peonies are systematically sold too raw. Because when a peony is sold too raw, more than often the flower doesn't perform as it could. When you compare the vase life and performance of peonies that have been cut at a later stage, you can see that they perform much, much better.
Cutting the right flower stage is very important. This grower selects only the right stage and leaves the closed ones on the fields for harvest at a later time.
Why Are Peonies Sold Too Raw?
Knowing all this, it is a pity to see that many peonies are systematically sold too raw. Why is that?
- The first reason why peonies are being sold in too raw of a cut stage is because of the loading for transport. Open flowers are more susceptible to damage, especially with some varieties which are in high demand. It is easier to transport them to other countries when fully closed. Understand that those peonies for export are not being sold in buckets with water, but laying down in big crates on pallets. This saves transportation costs, right?
- The second reason why you systematically find peonies with the buds of the flowers too closed is because of the way of harvesting. Peonies are only ready one time in the season, and in big fields, the flower pickers go through just once to empty the whole field. When on average the flowers are ready to be harvested, they cut all the flowers at the same time. Making sure that on average the flowers are for sure not too open, because once too open they are very difficult to sell. This is the advantage smaller growers have because they sometimes go through the fields a couple of times to make sure they harvest the peonies in the right flower stage.
- The third reason that peonies are sold too closed has to do with the customer experience in the flower and retail shops. Consumers, in general, think when they see open peonies that they are already too old and not fresh. So here lies a job for florists and floral designers to educate their customers about the right flower stage for peonies.
Now you understand why many peonies are being systematically sold too raw, maybe you can find a way of informing people in the industry, and the consumers in your shop about the right stage for these pretty flowers. And together make the world aware we need them a bit more open.
Of course, there are many growers of peonies who do cut the flowers at the right flower stage. Large numbers are being traded by companies like My Peony Society, who do their utmost to just source and deliver the best peonies. At the right flower stage. And when buying from a webshop, take a good look at the pictures coming with the offers. Most pictures of flowers being sold at the auction have to be the real picture of that specific lot. Make sure to buy only these peonies that are already showing some color.
So, when you do want to have peonies in the right flower stage, make sure when buying them, they are a bit more open. Or just ask your wholesaler to buy from smaller growers who go through the fields a couple of times to make sure they only cut the flowers at the right stage. Sometimes these growers have to go through the same field twice a day because at the end of the day some flowers are in a better state than they are in the morning. All pictures courtesy My Peony Society