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This is a difficult time for all of us. Stay home and stay safe is easy to say, but for those of us who enjoy being out and about, prowling garden centers at this time of year and making wish lists of plants,  it’s truly painful.

Because of  the current social restrictions, many have had to cancel or reschedule important family gatherings and even “celebrations of life” of lost loved ones.

So, a reader's tip in one of last years’ Fine Gardening magazines about heirloom peonies piqued my interest. The  reader’s daughter was getting married in fall but wished to use these gorgeous flowers from her mom’s garden in her wedding bouquet.

These peonies weren’t just pretty flowers, they had history. Peonies can live  100 years or more, so these blooms may have come from the prospective bride’s grandmother’s garden. Or they may have been a gift to mom’s  garden from a special friend or relative many years  ago.

So here are the tips Sue Smith followed to preserve her precious heirloom peonies for use in the autumn wedding.

Cut a stem 8 to 10 inches long with a bud that is just beginning to show color but has yet to begin to open. This is best done early in the morning.  Then carefully remove all the leaves and side shoots from the stem. Next lay the stem in the middle of a long piece of plastic wrap ( at least twice the length of the stem) and fold the top and the bottom of the wrap over both the bud and stem end tightly and continue to wrap the stem with wrap until all air is removed.  Next place the stem ( or stems) in a zip-seal bag, remove all the air, and store in the refrigerator (set at 34 degrees) in a horizontal position.

When ready to use, remove the flower buds from the fridge, cut the stems on a 45-degree angle and place them in a container of warm water.  According to Sue Smith, from Old  Forge, New York, who submitted this tip to Fine Gardening,  the peonies will bloom in a few days  just like you had picked them in early June.

I did a Google search to confirm this method really works and found many resources that confirmed it. Even Martha Stewart  does it.  The methods vary; however, the basic techniques remain the same.

If you’re celebrating the life of a loved one this summer, adding beloved peonies to the mix will be over the top.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.

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