I love peonies, anemones, ranunculus, and dahlias and would love to use them at my wedding in San Francisco in late fall [October to be exact]. Will they be available when I get married?
Laid back Bride
Dear Laid Back Bride,
I also love those flowers. Nothing is as pretty as white anemones with their black centers, paper thin petaled ranunculus in delicious hues of grapefruit, coral, orange, ruffly edged peonies with their over the top blooms, or deliciously plum and orange dahlias with their unique shapes and sizes.
However, as much as I would like to say that you should be able to get these elegant, romantic, fluffy, garden blooms, I would be misleading if I were to guarantee these flowers for a bride during late fall.
It’s easy to assume that you should have access to these great wedding flowers because they are everywhere on blogs, in magazines, and in many vendors’ portfolios. Partly as a wedding provider we are at fault for misguiding brides. I’m easily as guilty for putting on my blog, website, and in studio portfolio images of these wonderful blooms, but they are not flowers that you will find year round.
If you can deliver peonies, anemones, ranunculus, and summer colored dahlias all year, I am all there.
(The one flower that you might find year round are hothouse dahlias. However, other than that, I’m very sorry to disappoint. )
If you are a grower and want to chime in, I would love to hear from you.
If you are a bride and you have found a wholesaler who has good quantities of these (not just a one bunch) please comment and send us your resource. I’ll be more than thrilled to contact them and follow up with a post for all of you.
Let us take for example the Peony. Peonies are herbaceous perennials. In general, perennials (especially flowering plants) grow and bloom over spring and summer, then die every autumn and winter. They return in the spring from their root-stock. The characteristic of a herbaceous perennials is that the plant’s leaves and stems die down at the end of the growing season to the soil level.
Let me translate. No, there are no peonies in the late summer (late July - August), autumn (Sept to November) or winter (Dec through Feb) that are grown domestically in the States. Because it is a herbaceous perennial, the stems actually die after they bloom and thus peonies are slow growers.
Famed gardener Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall noted that many people often question why one should grow a flower that is only in bloom for a week or two, but she says, “Some peonies do flower for four weeks and longer, and by choosing carefully and planning for a succession of bloom you can have peonies in flower from mid April until the end of July. My own answer is that it is precisely because their season is so short that we love peonies so much.”
Note: peonies bloom are at their best April through July. Some will flower within a week or two weeks’ time period. The only reason why we have cut peonies is that growers plant them carefully so that there is a sucession of continuous blooming.
I was doing some surfing on the internet and I see where the confusion begins. I noticed a Dutch website where they advertise beautiful double peonies for $50.00 per collection. And it proudly posts that it ships for Fall 2009. What they don’t tell you is that the collection are “plants” which you can “plant”. They are plants that you have put into the ground and not cut blooms.
In China, peonies are one of the most visible and popular flowers. And trust me, I am investigating when Chinese Tree Peonies are grown so that hopefully one day, we will have more peonies imported from that region. But even a noted website on Chinese peonies notes that they bloom for 1 to 2 weeks in April.
There are some farms in Tasmania, New Zealand which probably can produce some imported peonies. That is why if you are lucky and can stomach the price, you can find order imported peonies a few weeks during the winter in hues of white and burgundy (pinks are rare). These peonies are coming from Holland’s large wholesaler. This short winter crop of cut peonies leads people to think if you can get them in spring and winter, why not the other seasons… right? Unfortunately, we aren’t quite there.
Though we aren’t quite there at year round peonies, I do think that there is growing optimistism that one day soon we will have some peonies through the summer. It hasn’t happened yet but Alaska with its cool weather is ripe for planting peonies. Over the past three years, many peony enthusiasts and experts have gone to Alaska to see if planting peonies is a profitable and good investment.
The Alaska state Division of Agriculture came up with an investment in 2008 to help Alaska growers travel to remote peony farms in New Zealand and Tasmania. These potential Alaskan peony growers worked at the farms and learned how to harvest large quantities of peonies and prepare them for shipping. There is a foreseeable future that peonies (at least) might be grown domestically for summer weddings.
Sorry for this rather long post but I feel it is important to know that as a floral designer, trying to locate and find available product is a serious matter and that wholesalers and growers need to know what you - the potential clients want.
To be continued….