Peonies are large, lush blossoms that can be single, semidouble—or, most popular—double blossoms.

This variety is also known as the bomb type, because of its round shape and explosion of multiple petals. The blossoms sometimes reach five to six inches across.

A fresh peony should be cut or purchased in bud stage, when the bud is about the size of a tennis ball and is semisoft to the touch—much like checking a peach for ripeness. Buds too firm to the touch will probably not develop. Peonies make excellent cut flowers when cut at the proper bud stage.

NAMES: Peony, Paeonia.

VARIETIES: Herbaceous varieties in single, semidouble and double-bloom types.

COLORS: Shades of white, cream, peach, pink into deep crimson shades. Some varieties may be multi-colored, with specks of contrasting color at the base of the flower’s center.

SCENT: From sweet, mild fragrance to very aromatic, depending on the variety.

FRESHNESS: Purchase or cut when the flower is still in bud stage.

VASE LIFE: 7 to 10 days, or longer.

AVAILABILITY: Spring only, but some cut flowers are available from New Zealand in winter.

COST: Spring—moderately expensive. Winter—expensive.

MEANING: Bashfulness.

NOTE: With blossoms reaching to sometimes 5 inches across, peonies are an arrangement in themselves.