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How to: enjoy peonies


Photo - Erika Craddock/

Are these spring’s most romantic flower? The small round buds open to a gorgeous, generous, glamorous semi-double or double flowers. Shades range from white through various pale pink blushes to a rich dark scarlet. 

Some show off delicious raspberry swirls, others have just a lick of colour. Whatever the tone, peonies have the power to transform an ordinary day into something special, whether they are blooming in a wedding bouquet, or in a jam jar by your bed.

Peonies (Paeonia sp) come in two forms: herbaceous perennials, which die down each winter and regrow the following spring; and tree peonies, which lose their leaves in winter, but leave woody stems. They originate in China where they symbolise beauty, love and affection. The west was quickly seduced by their charms and they are now grown in cold-climate gardens from Beijing to Birmingham.



Photo - Erika Craddock/

* Both forms of peony flower for a short season each year in late spring or early summer.

* Peonies require rich, free-drained soil, regular feeding and unfortunately for most of us - a very cold winter. Gardeners in Tasmania, some parts of Victoria and the snowier regions of NSW have good luck with peonies. The rest of us will be buying, in great big gorgeous bunches, from the florist.

* Choose peonies in tight bud so you can enjoy watching them unfurl. Recut the stems under water and then arrange them in a vase. Change the water every few days to extend the life of cut flowers.

* Peonies are usually displayed as big bunches, but they also look beautiful when each individual bloom is allowed to shine in its own vessel.


Text: Linda Ross

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Author: Linda Ross