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Peonies - a love affair

‘What’s your favourite flower?’

This is a question I’m asked quite a lot. There are so many I adore. I could list endless favourites for each season and colour palette. Because let’s be honest here, what's not to love about any flower?

However, the peony is, and always has been my number one bloom.

And I’m not alone. Peonies are hugely popular, especially in bridal flowers. And it’s no surprise.

These stunning blooms don’t sit quietly in a corner at the party, you know they’re there from the moment they walk into the room. Big and showy, but with so much elegance, glamour & grace. One can’t help but feel attracted towards them.

I was lucky to have some stunning white ones on my wedding day. I’m not 100% sure which variety they were, but looking at catalogues I’d say they were very similar to ‘Bridal Gown’, a pure white, double variety with a lovely scent. My bouquet consisted of just these, surrounded by sprigs of Myrtle.

I say I was lucky to have them, because I got married in late July and it wasn’t until I’d had my consultation with our wedding florist, Kally Ellis of McQueens, that I really understood about seasonality. (This was way before I trained as a florist btw).

July is late for peonies, the flowering season in the UK is typically from April through to mid June. I’d hoped to have them in every arrangement on our wedding day, but was politely informed that this wouldn’t really be possible, however Kally said she would do all she could to get enough for my bouquet. And she did. It was stunning, and I wish I had some photographs of it to share with you today. But we sadly had a terrible photographer and very few decent images of our day. *Note for all future brides & grooms - invest in a decent photographer, they are worth every single penny.

The definition of Peony in the Collins Dictionary is;

‘A peony is a medium-sized garden plant which has large round flowers, usually pink, red or white’.

But wait.. What about all the other colours? The infamous Coral Charm, which starts life as a deep cerise pink bud, opening up its petals and then gradually fading to a pale ‘clotted cream’ shade. Trying on a bit of light pink and pale peach in-between. A fading beauty that certainly packs a punch at every stage of its bloom. And one of the most popular varieties for bridal bouquets.

You can also get yellow, white, cream, purple, lilac, green and another of my favourites, the indulgent, deep red varieties.

‘Christmas Velvet’, ‘Henry Bockstoce’, ‘Red Charm’ and ‘Old Faithful’ to name a few. I used ‘Red Charm’ for a wedding at Ham Polo Club. I just love its velvet like petals. Be warned though. They will open up to reveal a mass of smaller petals, a ruffled underskirt if you like. But be warned. They will look stunning for a few days, before the slightest breeze, or touch of the hand will results in ‘Red Charm’ dropping its ruffles to the floor as if to say ‘I’m done, the party is over, and it’s time to head home’.

Even though my love affair with this flower has been a long one, I have never owned my own plant. Convinced they were tricky things to grow and look after, and that I may have to wait a few years before flowers appear. But I think the time has come for me to add a little glamour to my garden party. And so I’m off to browse the vast collection at Primrose Hall. Now all I have to do is decide which one to pick… or maybe I could get two?

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