With over 40 growers in 6 countries world wide, our peony season starts in Italy, followed by France, New Zealand and, finally, the Netherlands. Differences in climate and soil makeup mean that different varieties thrive in every country. Join us on our Tour de Pivoines as we follow the sun – and peony season – into France.
The south of France, known as the Midi, is perfect for growing peonies. Hot days, with plenty of sun, and cold nights are just what they need. They are kept outside, on the fields, without pretty much any protection against storm or rain – you migth call it a laissez-faire affair. It results in these plants becoming real power houses, with strong stems and big, gorgeous flower heads. French peonies are known for their intense, fantastic colours and huge sizes. Keeping the peonies outside can be risky; it’s notoriously difficult to predict “Dame Nature”. We count on the experience and skill of our French growers to know exactly when to harvest, at precisely the right time.
Jacob Karsten cultivates his peonies on the fields of Paeon, a growery with about ten hectares of land in the famous Bordeaux region. The breath-taking, rugged French countryside inspired him to cultivate his peonies biologically, with organic fertilizer. “It’s better for the soil, the insects, and ultimately the planet.”
The assortiment consists of Athena, Mary E. Nicholls, Jacorma, Flame, Coral Sunset, Command Performance, Sarah Bernardt, Duchesse de Nemours, Coral Charm, Miss America, Red Grace, Alertie and The Fawn.
Next stop: Paris! We’re visiting Marché de Rungis, the main international market of Paris, located in the municipality of Rungis.
One of the largest wholesale markets in the world, it’s a huge, bustling affair. Every year over 1.5000.000 tonnes of culinary specialties and 32.000.000 bunches of the world’s finest cut flowers exchange hands here.
Near the entrance we meet Thierry Cochet, flower trader “par excellence”. His stall is a sea of intense colours, flowers of all shapes and sizes, with something for everybody. Working here for over thirty years, Thierry has become a staple of the Marché de Rungis. Rumour has it his forefather was the personal gardner of the admiral of Bougainville, and the creator of one of the first rose gardens – his passion for flowers comes as no surprise then.
He tries to deal in locally sourced flowers whenever possible, with a strong preference for French peonies. With peonies, he says, it’s the quality that matters. And it just so happens to be the case, he adds with total confidence, that French peonies are the best in the world!
The Province of Beaujolais, north of Lyon, isn’t known for their peonies. The big draw here is the typical light-bodied red wine, generally produced with the local Gamay grape. But that doesn’t mean peony fans have no reason to be here. We recommend visiting Juliénas, in the far north of the Beaujolais region, to sample the local Beaujolais Cru. An earthy wine with hints of strawberry, cinnamon, violets and… peonies. Floral sweetness perfectly balanced by a little spice. According to vinologists Julienas pairs well with pheasant and duck. We’ll say it also goes great with a freshly cut Madame Claude Tain or Pastelegance.