peonies & the family room

Marian ParsonsFamily Room, My House48 Comments

Last year I planted two peony bushes along the side of my house.  I never even knew what peonies were until one sweet reader sent some to me a couple of years ago as a “studio warming” gift when I moved into the studio space I currently run my business from.  (I still can’t believe I used to do all of this from my house!)

They were such beautiful, delicate, and long-lasting flowers and I was excited to learn I could grow them in my yard!  In fact, my neighbor had a peony bush just on their side of the property line, so I knew I had a good chance of success with them.

Well, this year, I got some beautiful blossoms off of both…



I also never knew about the whole ants & peony controversy, but I got to see it first hand.  It is believed that the ants help the peony blossoms to open, but that seems to be debated.  Anyway, there were ants all over my peonies, but I just held them upside down and gave them a good knock and the ants came off.  I later read that you can soak them in water, too, so I’ll try that next time.

I collected the ones that filled the pitcher above earlier this week and gathered the rest of the blooms yesterday.  I also bought a huge bunch of flowers, wheat, and greens from a local organic farm market.  It was $5.00 for the entire bunch and they were so pretty in their wildness that I couldn’t resist.

mms-8299 mms-8301 mms-8300

I tend to like tight, “bunchy” bouquets of flowers, but I decided to let this one be loose and wild.


I put them on the “kitchen table” that’s in our family room (just off the kitchen.)

I recently did some furniture shuffling in this room and I’m still trying to sort things out.  I am coming to terms with the fact that this room is just tricky and it’s probably always going to be tricky and when we move someday, I’ll miss many things about this house, but I won’t miss the trickiness of this room!


(You know, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, but looking at these pictures has made up my mind.  I’m going to paint the inside of that cabinet.  It’s just a black hole!  I think a little Mora is in order.)


So, in all of the furniture scooting, I decided that the piece under the TV, which I’ve felt mediocre about for a while, was unnecessarily large.  We had cabinets that were completely empty and just didn’t need all of that storage…


…so, I sold it at Lucketts and swapped it out for something smaller…


I know.  You don’t even need to say it.  It was a bad move!

Even once we get the cords under control and Jeff glues up the “secret” bottom drawer and I style the space properly, it still is a step down from what was there.  A gorgeous piece, but just not right for that spot.

While the other piece was larger than we needed storage wise, the scale balanced out the TV and the sofas well and I just wasn’t thinking through that.  Of course, this is a new opportunity for me to find something awesome for a room in my house, so I’m on the hunt.  Even Jeff asked me today when I was going to replace the current piece with something better.  When he is encouraging me to shop for furniture, you know he really doesn’t like it!

So, I’m cruising craigslist to see if anything pops up that’s just right.  It is a tall order, because the size has to be just right, we need a recess where we can fit the components, and I’m hoping to find a piece that’s a real eye-catcher; something unique.

I found a very cool apothecary cabinet, but it’s 7′ long and that’s really pushing the limits of the space.  It was a bit pricey, too.

I’ll keep you posted on the hunt as well as other tweaks I make in the room…

peonies & the family room

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48 Comments on “peonies & the family room”

  1. I just love how flowers bring a room to life! If you love peonies you should try English roses too!
    About the cabinet under the TV: maybe it’s time to design a cabinet yourself? You sure have the talent for it!

  2. I would have to agree that it really is a lovely piece, but that it’s just not right for that spot. Can’t wait to see what you find to replace it!

  3. I love your curtains in this room! Can you please tell me where you got them? Loving that table & your paneling too.
    Gorgeous peonies! I have a Sarah Bernhardt variety that I so look forward to every year. Sadly this year, some critter ate all the buds so I had zero blooms. I almost cried.

  4. Beautiful peonies. Marian, if you pick your blooms before they open fully you’ll have less ants too. The blooms will open beautifully then once you bring them indoors. Squeeze the bud and if it is soft like a marshmallow it can be picked to bring indoors. Enjoy them, they are only in bloom such a short time.

  5. Peonies are by far my favorite flowers of all time. They are so pillowy and soft and I could go on and on lol I don’t have any planted right now since I’m renting for a short time and I’m one of those people that gets very attached to my plants, so tending and caring for one and losing it from a transfer would be such a bummer. Luckily I live next to an elderly couple and they literally have hundreds of peonies swathed across the yard. It’s just gorgeous. So I secretly admire them from between the slots of the fence since they keep their bounty hidden lol funny stuff, I know ?

  6. Gorgeous peonies! I cant grow them for the life of me. Your new cabinet is gorgeous but I think your right. The scale of the other piece was better for the space. Your lucky that you can sell your mistakes or use them for props. It makes them just happy accidents at the end of the day.

  7. You are lucky you got blooms on your peonies so quickly. Especially transplanted peonies can wait a few years before they start to produce blossoms. I need to move a couple in my yard that aren’t planted in a good spot and I am dreading that I might not get blossoms.

  8. Im so impressed with how many peonies you had so soon after planting. I adore peonies but its taken me 4 years to get to that sort of output. Love the colors you chose for them too.

  9. I had never heard the ants and peonies theory. I’m tempted to bring bouquets of peonies into the house, but they are so beautiful outside. I planted mine on the north side of the house and they’re thriving there – I think it’s just the right amount of shade and light sun for them.

    You are right about the needed scale of your media cabinet, but I think it was a smart move to get rid of the first piece. It seemed a bit too fussy for MMS. The second piece looks great, but does need to be larger. I like how the wood tone brings some depth and texture to the room. I’m sure another large buffet will pop up for you.

      1. I did it quite a few years ago. I used commercially available silica gel for flower drying. Pick a perfect peony after the dew has dried off it. Place a layer of the silica in the bottom of a covered metal cookie can. Cut most the stem off the flower. Place the peony on the silica. Very carefully pour silica a little at a time between the petals of the flower, you don’t want to distort the petals. Continue adding silica until the flower is completely covered plus an inch or so. Place the cover on the can–must be a tight fit. You don’t want moisture to get in the can. The gel absorbs the moisture from the flower. Place the can in a secure place. I don’t remember how long it takes, but the instructions that come with the gel should provide info on timing (or go to Google for info). Check flower, you want it to be dry. Carefully remove gel (I think I probably poured it off and into a large baking pan). You will need to dry the gel in the oven before using again. Use a small paint brush to brush the powder off the petals. Enjoy!

  10. Actually, when peonies are still in bud, a sweet substance coats the buds. That is why they attract ants. Ants feed on that substance, and hence “help the peonies open.” However, once you have ants on peonies, you’ll also have spiders on peonies because they feed on ants. 🙂
    That is why I rarely use my backyard peonies as cut flowers inside my home.

  11. You were fortunate to have peonies so soon. Often it takes three years before they bloom. I have not tried this yet, but I was recently told that if you pick them when they first show color, but have not yet opened, you can store them in a brown paper bag in your fridge and take them out when needed. I have a small fridge and no room, but perhaps you would like to try this.

    1. that is how it is done commercially. Peonies have become a commercial crop in Alaska. We have friends with a growing farm, and neighbors that started on a few years ago.
      They are picked while still fully closed and put in the fridge immediately. They are shipped out this way, and allowed to open at the correct time, according to the need of the flowers ordered.

  12. I just love the peonies. I had two planted at my former home and they were the same colors as you displayed on your site today. I miss them so much, I can’t stand it!! Maybe someday I will have more? I love your second piece of furniture, but agree that it may not be the perfect choice. Keep searching and I know you will have success!! Best of luck! Oh, and when I picked my “antsy peonies” I sprayed them lightly with dish soap mixed with water. It seemed to work!

  13. Marion – Are your Peonies plants in the sun most of the day? I am just planting some this year and cannot wait until they bloom. May not be until next year. I love the color or yours.
    In my neighborhood we are sharing our peony plants with each other, and that way we get all the different colors. 🙂

  14. I agree that the scale is just not right with the new piece under the TV, nor did the other piece work. But perhaps if you covered the screen so it wasn’t such a big black presence there, it would be easier to find the right piece to go under it. A frame around it that chippy shutters or doors could attach to and just swing open when needed might make a big difference….just a thought. I’m sure now that you’re on a mission, it will turn out just right!!

  15. 1) I would surely buy a Miss Mustard Seed cabinet – great idea!! 2) I love love peonies and your flower arrangement is so wild and beautiful, you even do THAT well! 3) I would suggest buying a remote control extender kit for your TV…I bought one to hide my cable box / DVD player / etc and I LOVE that I don’t have to see any of those ugly black boxes, they are all hidden in the closed TV cabinet (I bought a cheap one from Amazon, <$30, and it works great!)

  16. I personally like the piece under the TV better than the older one. It has so much character. Peonies are wonderful! I live in Florida and tried to grow them. I think it’s just too hot! I’ll try again if I can find some. Lilacs don’t want to grow here either.

  17. I revamped a little dresser for a TV unit…….removed the top drawers on either side and finished the interior of the spaces to house the PVR and another piece of audio equipment. TV fits perfectly on top and remotes work with the items in recessed spaces! The lady I made it for was thrilled with the end result!
    Love the peonies!!!

  18. I love peonies and those are gorgeous! I live in Phoenix now and I have embraced the whole desert gardening thing. But the one plant I miss in my garden is peonies.

  19. When we bought our house 27 years ago the back garden was filled with peony bushes, and we have spread them around even more. They do best in a lot of sun. The trick to picking the flowers is to do it before dawn or at dusk, when the ants and spiders have left the flowers and gone to bed. I always pick as many as possible before a rain storm because the open flowers get pounded down and ruined, unless you use cages to support them. Peonies arrange themselves, as no other flower does.

    If you have a daughter or niece getting married in June and have a lot of peonies, you can give a fabulous gift of flowers. With the help of a friendly florist willing to give you refrigerator space, you pick them very early each morning, only those whose buds are starting to emerge from the green cap, put them in a bucket of water, and take them to the florist. The peonies stay as they are under refrigeration. When you are ready to arrange them, you plunge the stems in warm water and they burst into bloom. When I did this for my niece, the florist packed the stems, still in bud, in florist shipping boxes I scavenged, and I fedexed them to the wedding destination, where my sister unpacked them and put them in water. There were 11 dozen stems, with many stems having three or five buds. It was a spectacular abundance of flowers, and would have cost a fortune.

  20. Peony plants, not bushes. Bush is something else.
    Watch out for earwigs in the blooms – I don’t bring them inside for that reason.

  21. Peonies are so magical to me. I take comfort ( sorry) knowing that even you sometimes ( not often) make the wrong decorating choice. I sometimes beat myself up ( mentally) when I choose the wrong paint color or do a “what was I thinking” ? It’s all relative and now I’m enjoying the fact that I have the ability to make my own choices- good or bad! So keep on, keeping on, Marion. I love to read every detail!

  22. Your peonies are stunning…. thank you for sharing them. I actually like the replacement piece for a couple of reasons. First, it’s visually it’s a little more simple, and second, I flat out just love mahogany, or any dark wood. But I do agree that the proportion is a little out of whack.

  23. I wonder if the “new” chest were to be painted a lighter color, if it wouldn’t be the perfect piece for that TV spot?

  24. Did you say a while back that you would share with your readers about a blue
    cross stitch monogram I am sure you pictured on a post? Have I missed it somewhere?
    Love your peonies!

  25. Peonies and English roses are my favorite! And the best thing is that they are both easy to grow. I have to agree with you, that piece must go!!!! So not fitting of your style. I also have a question about Craig’s List. Every time I try to hunt pieces of furniture for my area all I get is mostly companies advertising retail. Is there a trick to it that I am missing or is this just par for the course in all areas? Thank you and any advise would be much appreciated.

    Wendy D.

  26. Your peonies look AMAZING! Peonies were a featured flower in our wedding centerpieces. I can’t believe a country girl like you didn’t know what they were! A nice lesson learned.

  27. I am SOOOO JEALOUS!!!!! Peonies have been my all time favorite flower for 30 years!! Unfortunately, it is too hot to grow them in the Houston area 🙁 So we have to wait for the few weeks in the late spring/early summer and fall into winter when they are available at the florist for an insane amount of money. Enjoy and plant more!!


  28. I have many peonies….some were moved from my parents home before selling the property.
    Did you know they can live 50 or more years? I bought a pricey yellow one about five years ago.
    It was quite small…big now and had 17 huge blooms this year. They are a treasure-enjoy yours.

  29. Yes, peonies are beautiful! The June issue of Sunset Magazine has a very interesting article on the success of growing peonies in Alaska!

  30. if you disbud your peonies the main bud will be bigger. I had a flower shop for 20 years, we bought peonies from a farm. They cut buds with color showing, wrapped them in clear plastic wrap and stored them in the fridge. We would unwrap and put in water and they would pop open. They are beautiful flowers..
    I had many peonies and found it very relaxing to go out each evening or morning and disbud the peonies.

  31. Hi Marion, I have always thought about (never done it!) taking a drawer out of a dresser and taking the front off and then somehow mounting it in a way where it operates like a garage door. So when you want to watch TV you just flip the little door up and ta-da you have TV. You can make more drawers depending on how many devises you have. I personally have many vises and many devises. Be Well

  32. I love peonies, too. Mine are just this week beginning to open. I have one pale pink one and two more of a hot pink color. I can’t wait to pick some and arrange them in a particular blue vase I have always used for them. And the smell is so wonderful. My little three-year-old great-nephew was in the yard with his daddy the other day and his dad said, “Jack, what’s that nice smell?” And Jack replied, “Oh, daddy, it’s the peonies!” Now what three-year- old knows about peonies and how they smell?! I love it!

    Well, yeah, that brown dresser just doesn’t do it, does it? Too dark, too small for the TV. But how fun that you get to shop for something else that is awesome. I can’t wait to see what you find. Something lighter I think. Have fun looking!

    Oh, I almost forgot. I received my beautiful blue Mason canning jar with the zinc lid today and I just love it! Maybe I will use it for the peonies this year. Just happy to have it to look at!

  33. Your original piece of furniture made me realize I could use something like that in my space. Just moved into an 1883 house south of Chambersburg. Getting ready to tackle some projects. What is the wall color you used in these rooms?

  34. So telling that this post about peonies should draw so many responses. Nothing brings memories of my mother alive more than the sight and fragrance of peonies. The plant flourishes in our part of Ohio and in my daughters back yard. She seems to have inherited her grandmothers love for peonies. Thank you for a post that brought both smiles and tears this morning. Have fun working out the tv “stand” dilemma. Always nice to have an excuse to go hunting.

  35. I’m surprised your husband didn’t solve your first problem with a larger TV. My husband would have used it as an excuse to go bigger, lol! The French piece seemed too long, and this piece, although beautiful, seems too short. You need something in between. I enjoy your look, and no doubt you’ll find something that works. LOVE the peonies! We can’t grow them in my zone.

  36. The peonies are wonderful! I love the way you have the loose bouquet on that darlin table in front of the window. It all looks so fresh and bright and enticing.


  37. Gorgeous peonies!!!! For the tv what about an armoire? Then the tv and the components can stay hidden when not watching and if you can find a really tall one it will be a nice balance with the windows and the cathedral ceiling in the room. And I personally love how an armoire really creates a focal point and an anchor in a room!! Just an idea!!! Good luck!

  38. Peonies are my favorite perennials! I have several peony bushes and they are gorgeous but are notably slow growing plants and took several years before I starting getting blooms. You were really lucky to get so many blooms in just your second year after planting. You must be doing something right and they must love the soil and where they are!

    Hope you find the right cabinet/credenza soon. As soon as I saw the new piece I thought to myself that doesn’t look like Marian. I was happy my beliefs where confirmed. I actually loved the other piece and thought the scale was perfect but then again its different looking at something on a blog and seeing the piece in person.

  39. Try lisianthus! They are an annual but the blooms last for weeks in a vase. Your peonies look amazing; love that plant.

  40. I love your blog so much! I adore those blue and white quilts you have – where did you get them from, or are they vintage?

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