Tree peonies are used with short green stems, usually no more than 6″, never cutting past into the plant’s woody stems. Pick while the bud is still closed, but soft. The flower will open up to display a dazzling bloom. Herbaceous peonies, with their generous length of stems, are used in a variety of arrangements, from bridal bouquets to garlands. These are also cut before being fully open, though soft buds guarantee that they will open for your event. To avoid ants at your picnic, take the freshly cut herbaceous peony bud and blooms and plunge in bucket cold water, shaking the blossoms. Do this several times to wash off the flowers before you begin to arrange them. Tree peonies do not attract ants and do not need this treatment. Tree peonies, with sort stems which usually do not exceed 5” could only be used for shorter centerpieces.
Anyone who grows peonies, knows all to well the temptation to cut a perfect blossom for use in a floral arrangement. Indeed, some varieties of tree and herbaceous peonies with particularly large flowers are best used as cut flowers. All of us growing these amazing flowers do like to see them up close, as cut flowers, where they can be studied and enjoyed.
Kasha Furman, co-founder of Cricket Hill Garden, has used a wide variety of peony blossoms cut from our gardens. Though now retired from the wedding flower business, there was a time in the 1990s, when she would arrange the flowers for up to twenty weddings a season. Whenever possible she would use peonies.