January 1, 2021
Your bloom season timing will depend on your farm's geographical location, your climate and even your particular micro climates. The heat index will further define when and how long your harvest season will be. If you have very hot days, you may find it necessary to harvest several times a day and experience a very short, early season. In #Alaska where I farm, our cold soils and cool weather dictate a later season and a longer season. In #Fairbanks where the temperatures get into the 90s, their season is earlier and short. Timing and availability will have a huge influence on the market price. Many farms construct temporary plastic covers to time their harvests to Mother's Day or other specific high volume use. Another complicated subject. In Alaska our peony are available when fresh cut peonies are rarely available anywhere else in the world.
Varieties are categorized into early, mid and late blooming. However in most climates the starting time to harvest between early and late bloomers is often less than 2 weeks.
Each variety will have its own season. Not all blooms on a plant will mature at the same time. So you may be harvesting from the same variety for a couple of weeks, again depending on your location. The flower size from the first cuts of any variety will be larger than later cuts from the same plant.
Photo two different size buds on same plant
Each variety has a definite best time to #harvest. The marshmallow stage people refer to in my experience is definitely not a dependable rule. Some variety's best cutting time is when they are still very, very firm with only a touch of true color. Other varieties may have to be quite soft. A general rule is the more petals the variety has, the softer they should be.
Knowing when is the exact time to cut is one of the hardest parts to learn about growing peonies. Your most experienced workers should be assigned this job. Only a few hours early or late can determine if the flower will ever open or if the #Vase life is cut short. The quicker you remove the field heat after cutting will also have a major impact on Vase life. Many studies have been done concerning the correct time to harvest the many varieties. I'll cover this subject in another part of the Variety Series.
When I was at Elevation 2000 Farm in New Zealand, their Duchess De Nemour plants had 80 buds per plant. They had to not only disbud (the term for popping off the side bud leaving only one main bud per stem) all the plants but also actually cut many stems entirely to their base and discard from each plant to keep from stressing the root systems. Varieties with smaller sized flowers often produce more flowers per plant. Even though smaller flowers sell for less than the larger sized, because of volume, economically they can be quite profitable.
Photo number 6 tiny buds
Photo # 10 disbudding
On the other end, the varieties with the largest blooms normally have less harvestable stems, but the price points are higher. Your Variety choices should be determined by your market, not only flower sizes but also colors. For instance, in New Zealand their harvest season correspond with Christmas. Therefore, they grow a lot of reds and whites. I'll talk more about colors in another series.
It is true, certain varieties do better in different climates, certain types of soils, and irrigation programs. If possible, check out peony farms in your area. And as you hear me say often, I highly recommend volunteering on a #peony farm for a season before you invest in your own farm.