Summer Garden Bouquet

Bouquet No.2, another Emily Bouquet - keeping to our garden rose start, here's a continuation on the theme - 

Peach Shimmer and Romantic Antike garden roses are the focal of this bouquet, their delightful peachy pinkness highlighted by accents of white and ivory.  A bouquet for another Emily, it's full of texture and interest, alluding to deeper depths.  Orlaya, the lacey white umbel just peeking out here and there, is one of my favorite flowers to use to add a bitter of summer garden to a bouquet.  

The orlaya in this bouquet was grown in our gardens here at the studio, as was the pennycress (the little round disks of green), the white peonies, and the white wands of gooseneck loosestrife.  The loosestrife is a bit of fun, the spikes rising above and curling a bit to give some movement in the bouquet.  Little bits of parviflora eucalyptus also move when the bride walks or a breeze blows.  Dusty miller, white spray roses and white waxflower are also in this bouquet.

Posh Peonies

The Power of the Peony

©2015 Cynthia Damico
Throughout history, the peony has captivated gardeners and artists alike.  The Chinese and Japanese cultures have revered the lush blossoms for centuries, and it is prominently figured in many of their art mediums - ceramics, painting, and ikebana, the traditional Japanese floral design.  In fact, peony and pine is the traditional way to begin the new year:


Why is this flower so popular?  Why do brides love it so?  I think the reasons are many, but first and foremost is the flower shape and style - it’s full and lush, both delicate in its tissuey petals and ripe in its rotund beauty.  This is not a flower for the faint of heart, it’s big and full and in your face.  It’s also almost always scented as well, a clean fresh flowery scent that is rarely cloying or crass. Peonies are widely regarded as a ‘special’ flower, one that isn’t available the year round and only blooms locally in Virginia from late April through the end of June, if we’re lucky.   Tree peonies (there are several types of peonies) bloom first, and these are woody perennial shrubs.  Herbaceous (the most commonly grown for the wholesale market at this point, and the best cuts) bloom next, and come in a wide variety of colors, whites and ivorys, pinks and corals, fuchsias and scarlets.  Our best availability in my zone 7 garden is mid-May.  Overlapping the bloom of the herbaceous peonies are the intersectional peonies, or Itoh hybrids.  This cross between a tree and a herbaceous is a relative newcomer to market, with single plants fetching as much as $150.  They’re amazing in form, with the best of both the herb and tree, and a mature plant can put out as many as 50 blooms the size of dinner plates.  Yellows and golds can be found in the Itohs, a color range missing in straight herbaceous.  These will be the Most Special peonies in coming years, and will command the price tag to prove it.  Since I mentioned price, why are peonies so expensive?  Waiting for three years for plants to produce sellable flowers will cause any grower to add that first three years of no sale onto all the remaining years of sale.  Can you imagine working hard on something for three years before you get reimbursement on your expenses?  

And they’re not the easiest flower to ship - they must be caught just when there’s a bit of color showing in the bud, not too open or they’ll bruise, not too closed or they’ll never open, but just right.  And then swaddled and coddled until they’re shipped/flown to a wholesaler, who in turn swaddles and coddles.  Then to your designer, who unwraps, de-bunches, cuts and rehydrates before designing with them, then to you.  It’s the same for any flower save those that may be cut from your designer/growers garden, but the difference with peonies is they do not like to be handled so much.  Like a prima ballerina, it’s all got to be very gentle and delicate like.  Too much knocking about and she’s going to sulk, and perhaps not perform for you.  Roses are used to the handling and varieties have been bred to handle a little bit of rough and tumble without ill effect.  Not so with peonies, the nature of the blossom prevents it.  So when you see a perfect peony in a bouquet, you should applaud all those in the chain of life that went the extra mile and took extra care to insure your perfect bloom.  
©2015 Cynthia Damico
“But Cynthia,” you say, “I have seen peonies for sale at the supermarket, and in January!”  And so you have, but a little secret:  somewhere in the world, all the time, it’s Spring.  And growers in Chile and Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand, are willing to try and fly those peonies to you.  The Dutch have greenhouses that produce amazing flowers all year.  Those peonies we get out of season are very typically the side shoots and not at all the main peony on the stem.  They’re the buds they cut off to allow the main peony to grow larger.  You may have noticed they’re not the same size as a peony you’ll find in May.  Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone I told you. 

©2015 Cynthia Damico

The absolute best flowers you can ever acquire are from your local gardeners and growers.  There is no flower shipped from across the planet that can hold a candle to one that is grown down the street, they haven’t had the stress of waiting at the airport in a box without water or light.  Don’t get me wrong, I use flowers shipped from all over the world, but would I if I didn’t have to?  Would you?  I’m not such a stickler for using only local ingredients, but I do prefer to use them whenever possible.  

©2015 Cynthia Damico 

Enjoy your peonies whenever they're in bloom, but remember the best are almost always local.

©2015 Cynthia Damico