Why the royal wedding probably featured peonies

 As you read this column, the festivities are probably already underway in London for the marriage of American actress Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. I would guess that it will be quite a bash. Although there are only about 600 invited guests, the whole area around the church and, indeed, much of London will be in a turmoil. I cannot imagine what the florists are doing right now and have been doing for several days.

Nearly every florist in the London area coveted that job, but Ms. Markle chose Phillipa Craddock to do the flowers for St. George’s Chapel, and most probably the personal flowers. Having been on the decorating teams for the Ford and Carter White Houses and for week-long stints for the inaugurations for both President Bushes and President Clinton, where 100 professional florists work long hours for six days to get the job done, I am pretty sure that I would not have the stamina for this one. (But I would give it a heck of a try!)

We have learned that the wedding flowers of Princess Diana, Harry’s mother, will have a great influence this day. The chapel will be decorated with branches of beech, birch and hornbeam, and other branches from the royal parks. White garden roses will play a big part in this part of the wedding, and peonies will be everywhere. They will, of course, come from the royal parks and gardens. So, too, will the wildflower plants and a multitude of shrubs, blossoms and grasses.

Now for the bride’s bouquet. It’s a well-kept secret, and though a lot of know-it-alls will try predict what will happen, no one can be sure. But it looks as if the bride, combining her likes and the desire to honor Princess Diana, will carry a bouquet of white peonies, white garden roses and foxgloves. According to tradition, the bouquet may also have lily of the valley and forget-me-nots, and it will certainly include a sprig or two of myrtle. Tune in next week and I will be able to tell you what really happened.

As I mentioned in this column a couple of weeks ago, florists are really interested in this wedding because what Meghan Markle does for her flowers will resound around the world — yes, even in Auburn. Brides across the globe will want to emulate that bouquet.

Believe it or not, there is a major peony grower just a few miles from here. You will find Styer’s Peony Farm on Jay Street in Geneva. They grow about 200 varieties of this beautiful flower on some 125 acres. Before driving out to see the beauty, the season is May and June, so be sure to call (315) 789-4358 to see when you might visit. I am going to try to get out there in the next couple of weeks. To my knowledge, they sell only cut peonies, not plants.

Why all the fuss about peonies? I think that because the season is so short, and the large flower comes in so many colors and color variations, it is a “must have.” I also believe that once established, they are easy to maintain, and plants live a long time. I do know that losing one can be a traumatic experience. Until last year, I had a beautiful peony with pure white petals and yellow centers. My mom had given it to me some 15 years ago and it always had lush growth and, each year, about a dozen salad plate-sized blooms. It didn’t come up last year, and there seems to be no growth this year. I will miss that plant.

If you are looking for a plant or two, my advice is to not buy those nicely packaged roots with gorgeous pictures of what it will look like when mature. I would rather go to a reputable garden center or even a home improvement store and spend the money to get a potted, growing plant. It will cost more, but one of these is worth a dozen of the inexpensive roots.



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