Given the interest in sustainable agriculture, it was only a matter of time before someone applied the concept to flowers. Now there's a book and a blog on the topic: "The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers." The blog is fascinating because it really makes you think about where flowers come from and who grows them. The site has a link to the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers where you can find the growers in your state and area if you want to join this particular "buy local" movement. There were 14 entries for Wisconsin.
But the most interesting tidbit I discovered was the video, "Empowered Peony Picking," featuring peony grower Joan Thorndike. As a professional peony grower, it's critical for Thorndike to pick peonies at the perfect moment to send them off to her floral customers. She picks them when the buds feel like marshmallows rather than marbles, which she talks about in the video. Thorndike said you can also cut peonies at the marshmallow bud stage and hold them in the fridge — wrapped in paper — for a month. Then you bring them out, recut the stems, put them in water and voila: you've got peonies.
So I tried it and it worked! Since this was my first attempt, I have a few kinks to work out but I will definitely do this again next year. I think my buds were not quite marshmallow-y enough when I cut them, so the flowers are smaller than they would be when blooming on the bush. But I cut these flowers on May 17th and they bloomed this afternoon, June 17th — literally after a month in the crisper bin in my refrigerator.
I took them out on June 13th and by the afternoon of the 14th — when I hoped they would be ready for a party — they weren't doing much of anything. To get them out of the way during the party, I stuck them in the cool, dark garage and forgot all about them. Brought them back into the light and heat last night (the 16th) and recut them. This morning they were clearly opening and I had peonies by mid-afternoon. Too cool!