Prolonging Peony Happiness

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Like many people, I adore peonies.  Their lush blossoms and intense fragrance are intoxicating.  So when two recent family trips crossed into and right back out of peony season here, I was truly sorry to be leaving my peonies.

I mentioned this at a dinner with old friends just before the first trip, and Al told me a trick for prolonging the peony season. Cut peony buds when they’re still tight balls, wrap them in wet newspaper, store in the refrigerator for up to several weeks, then take them out, put the buds in a vase with water, and the blossoms will open and delight.

It works.  A week and a half ago, headed off for the second of the family beach gatherings, I picked two bouquets to take with me.  If I had to leave and there were open blossoms, why not cut them and bring them with me, one jar full for my mother’s house, one for my sister’s cottage at Humarock Beach.  And I cut a dozen stems with buds, wrapped them in newspaper, wet the paper under the faucet, put it all in a grocery store plastic bag, and stowed it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. I unwrapped the buds and put them in a vase on Tuesday.  Today, they are peony perfection.

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And now the annual poppies that volunteer all over my gardens are open, coming again and again from seeds I started 20 years ago.  The colors and shapes have intermixed, and now I get lavender and red and the pink carnation poppies with their shaggy blossoms which have migrated some genetic code over to ruffle the edges of other colors.  When the blossoms have frayed and left the bare poppy heads, I let a few of them dry on the stalk, break the seed head open and scatter the poppy seeds over my beds.  Next summer, poppies everywhere.

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And here is the rudbeckia, also sowing itself into new clumps every time I weed another garden bed.  These flowers came from two clumps a friend dug me from her garden, and I in turn dig clumps and give them away.  I pull up and compost more than I can keep or gift.

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This all makes me happy.  When the big stuff in life gets a bit heavy to carry around day after day, making sure to appreciate the simple, little stuff gets more important.  Not that flowers are simple or little.  But they’re here and now and lovely.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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4 Responses to Prolonging Peony Happiness

  1. Anne Purinton says:

    Great idea, I’m going to try it. Your flowers are gorgeous! My peonies are all white, but a huge bunch, I’ve enjoyed bouquets for weeks now. When Jas and Rob and kids camped in their trailer in my yard,( when Kyle and fam were here), Juni took the spent flower petals in a basket, and made a petal trail from my front porch, to the camper door. It was sweet.

    Flowers are the loveliness that keep me sane. An artist friend said to me once, why do you waste money and time planting flowers, when you can’t eat them (this from an artist!) Food for the soul.

    I’m hoping that Chris is having some good days, and you all are coping with that devastation called dying. Bitter sweet times.

    oxox,

    Annie Chile (as Mary calls me)

    • Grace Mattern says:

      Thanks, Anne. I love thinking of you in your new house in Maine, with peony petals making a path from your door.

  2. Nancy says:

    Oh, so that’s what those beauties are! Glad for the education. And a good poem it came from, too.

  3. I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!

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