Behind the Private Gates, Design, In the Garden


A Peony Chat

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I’m so excited about the prospects for summer ’21 that I’m going to celebrate by “chic-ing up” the feature image for this post! Knowing how much we are all besotted with peonies, I chose the dramatic magenta pink ‘White Cap’ played against a favorite smoky orange tablecloth to really make a statement.

Join me as I loose my creativity on some of the many ways to dress your home with these yummy June stems. Compliments of the two new peony beds created in the back courtyard, across from the rose chain (we ran out of room in the Cutting Garden…a plight I’m sure you can relate to). We “chic-ed up” this a bit, too, by planting ‘Lady’s Mantle’ on the center rows to assure that the peonies have lots of breathing room. I love what their dreamy chartreuse adds to the scene…and ‘Lady’s Mantle’ blooms for a long time (especially if you cut them back after the first flush).

I’ll start by sharing a little Parterre tradition with you….”when the peonies come out, the slipcovers go on” in the library.

From the sunporch…

to the marble mantle in the salon, where a monogrammed metal planter plays host to the complimentary shades of pink for which peonies are so well known…

to a corner of the salon (where the knockout ITOH ‘Morning Lilac’ reigns supreme).

A brown glazed faux bois container is a foil to the old books atop the veined marble console.

These beauties are such specimens that sometimes just a collection of a single stem in a vase is a statement unto itself.

Now, for a flower lover’s secret to enjoying a longer bloom time for your beloved peonies: How to “Hold Them Over”

The #1 way to make the most of a fleeting peony season is to “hold them over,” a gardening term for putting them in the refrigerator for a future date (up to 2-3 weeks). Here’s how:

  1. Water your peony bushes the night before to assure that they’ll be well hydrated before you cut the buds the following morning. Look for buds that are still closed, but “spongy” to the touch and showing a bit of color.
  2. Place the cut buds in a zip-lock plastic bag, with their stems sticking out, and close as tightly as possible. They should not be in water.
  3. Lay the plastic bag(s) on a shelf in the refrigerator; be sure that you have removed any fruit from that fridge as the gases emitted by the fruit might jeopardize the health of the peony buds.
  4. When ready to use the peonies, remove from the refrigerator, recut the  stems and put in lukewarm water. Depending on which cultivar you have, the flowers should open in 12-24 hors. In my experience, the ITOHs and Coral Charm group (below) tend to open on the shorter time frame. Don’t you love the way these Coral Charms change shades (from coral into soft peach into light pink and finally, parchment) as the hours go by?

Closing on this little note…at last weekend’s Newport Flower Show I won 2 second place ribbons using just this method of “holding over” my peonies. Wishing you great success also.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

20 thoughts on “A Peony Chat

  1. I live in Oklahoma and enjoy your delightful posts so much! Very inspiring! Thank you for always bringing a happy note to the beginning of my day!

    1. And thank you for youtr happy note. Always makes my days to hear from part of my Private Newport family. Happy Summer down your way! xB

  2. I am assuming the BBPardee stands for “Breathtaking, Bettie”!
    What gorgeous pictures. Keep on sharing the JOY.

  3. Your mix of colors! What a collection! This inspired me to go to the Farmers Marker and gather as many colors as I can! And am searching in the cupboards for a few other containers! I’m so envious of your peony treasures!Thank you!

    1. Thank you, it is such a pleasure to see them enjoying their new beds…now if I can just resist the urge to add more, which begets an air circulation problem from crowding (and disease sets in). xB

  4. I read on FB where you can do the same via newspaper ~ have you tried it yet? I have some in the fridge waiting for discovery next month! lol

    1. I’ve read that, too, Rebecca but haven’t tried as I’ve been very happy with my zip lock bag approach. Let me know! xB

  5. Such gorgeous flowers! always enjoy seeing photographs of your lovely garden! THE most beautiful I’ve ever seen! Happy memories of so many good times together! How about ST PETERSBURG at THANKSGIVING! LOL

    1. Thank you, dear Elsie, and AAAAH St. Petersburg…we can never forget that trip. Perfect time of the year. xB

  6. Your peonies are just show stoppers, Bettie, outside and in your arrangements inside! Your garden is so exquisite. Thank you for the tip on extending their bloom time 🙂
    Have a wonderful weekend.

  7. Thank you so much for PEONIES!! They are so beautiful and I just love seeing them, a very special treat!!

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