When we cut flowers, we tell both tag-along insects and fungus
to bud out
Why clipping is healthy for
Extending the life of
cut flower bouquets
How to select a great future as you
One of the reasons I first started to garden
was to enjoy a big vase of peonies on my table. I love
how they smell, and seeing a peony bouquet reminds me of my
grandmother's house. But every time I cut them and bring them in I
can't admire the flowers for squashing the ants that crawl out of
them. Funny, I don't remember Granny dealing with ants! I know the
ants have to be there to make the peonies bloom but how can I evict
them before I bring in the flowers? - C.C. -
We cut peonies in bud
to avoid ant problems. Ants may be there but they're easy to see
and knock off a bud.
In an open bloom the petals may hide a crowd of ants that creep
out for days.
Ants are not essential to peony bloom. The insects are often
there to gather the sweet sap that dots the seams of the flower bud
covers (below). The flowers open, ants or no ants.
For this bouquet
(below) we cut three peony buds in three stages
development. The largest opened two days later,
others after four and five days in the vase.
changed the water every day to enjoy the show
the scent for over a week. (The 1st iris flower
two days, its side bud opened to take its place on
third day, and the whole stem was done before
week was out.)
Harvest cut flowers to stay ahead of
peony fungus trouble.
If you see peony buds that aren't going to open or when there
are fading flowers, clip them and throw them on a hot compost. The
less dead tissue there is on the plant, the fewer the places where
botrytis can get a toehold. Fungus spores from dead buds and
decaying petals infect weak spots on leaves throughout summer. The
infections end up streaking down the stems to erode the crown.
More about this in What's
Coming Up 51...
What's Coming Up 151, page 15.
The cut peonies we've shown on this page came from this
plant (below), which had been moved just weeks before. Although
most of its stems continued growing normally after the move, those
on one side of the plant must have become dry from root loss. Their
flower buds died.
Developing flower buds can be killed by cold, drought or
physical damage. Fungi such as peony botrytis that are too weak to
infect live tissue can move into dead buds and dying flower petals.
Once there, they produce spores that can drift into other damaged
tissues, such as foliage scarred by hail or slug scraped
Trapped moisture and dying petals make a perfect breeding
place for fungi. The more petals in a peony, the more reason to
deadhead it to keep it healthy. A "bomb" type flower full of petals
may end its season as mush hanging from the stem, while a single
flowered peony might simply drop its petals and offer little
purchase for fungi.
Longevity for cut
Freshly cut, young flowers can last at least a week in a vase.
To enjoy them for that long, or longer:
- Change the water daily. If you miss a day, rub
and rinse the stems under running water and wash the vase well at
the next change, to remove any algae. Once algae or fungi begin to
proliferate in a vase they will clog the stems' water conducting
system and the flowers will wilt.
- Put cut flowers into the refrigerator, vase
and all, when you aren't home.
- Keep cut flowers away from bowls of fresh
fruit, especially apples or bananas. Strawberries are also
special trouble. Ripening fruit emits ethylene gas, which hastens
seed formation and can cause flowers to fade sooner than
- Keep flowers in a bright room but away from
strong light that comes from just one side if the bouquet includes
spike-form flowers such as lupine (below), foxglove or snapdragons.
In even light, spikes' growing tips will remain straight. In the
presence of one-sided light they will grow toward the strongest
light so straight tips will become curved or twisted.
While we're at it: Cull for the best self sowers
and deadhead the annuals and biennials that sow about in a