It's tree peony time again, and this year it comes with weather which is not too friendly to this favorite flower. On several of the days when the flowers were opening the temperature came close to 90 degrees F. Under those conditions, the flowers can be literally ephemeral. This quick passing of the blooms has caused more than one commentator to question the role of tree peonies in our gardens. I'll bet there are a lot of gardens where one grows tucked away in some corner to be appreciated in its hours of glory and then forgotten for another year.
There is a way to enjoy them for a week or two: I now cut the blooms as soon as they are fully developed and then store them in the refrigerator. The earliest of the Japanese tree peonies open about a week or even more before the yellow-flowered sorts do; it's rare to see them in bloom together in the garden. But stored blooms last well, and while they last they can be removed for an hour or two now and then for table decoration - and then returned to the refrigerator.
Several years ago I staged a big group of my refrigerated tree peony flowers: the effect was really sumptuous. The plants did so well this year that it seemed an opportunity not to be missed to stage them again. That's what you see in the image above. You should have seen the refrigerator - it was stuffed.
The grouping seen above was put together hastily (lest the blooms fall apart) about an hour ago. I won't be surprised if those flowers are on the floor tomorrow morning.