Good news to peony enthusiasts — the blooming season isn’t over, and neither is the fourth annual Homer Peony Celebration.
Traditionally hosted through the month of July, this year’s celebration has been extended two weeks further, and will now end on Sunday, Aug. 13.
After the cold and rainy spring weather Homer has experienced this year, leading even into summer, peony farmers have experienced a delay to the start of their season by as much as four weeks, according to Alaska Beauty Peony Co-op general manager Leah Piedra.
“This is very, very unusual,” Homer Chamber of Commerce director Jan Knutson told Homer News on July 27. “We’ve been having a very, very cold and rainy spring. Statewide, the peony farmers are running at least two weeks late in terms of the blooming.”
Such a delay means the peony crop remains longer in the field, which can potentially present challenges to farmers including impact from insects, shrub damage and the plants’ leaves beginning to enter hibernation. At the same time, a delayed season can also present benefits for the farmers to reap.
“If everything goes well and we get the harvest in, we’ll hit the later market in the Lower 48, and we’ll hit that September wedding benchmark,” Piedra said Thursday. “So in some ways it’s good, everything has two sides to it.”
Knutson said that when she checked in with several major peony farmers and peony task force members at the American Grown Field to Vase Dinner Tour event on July 23 that was part of regularly planned annual celebration, all were in favor of extending the celebration two more weeks.
“The excitement over the celebration is growing every year,” Piedra said. “This is the fourth year and people are coming to Homer for the peony celebration, not just coming for the halibut and then saying ‘Oh there’s a peony celebration going on.’ People are actually planning their trips around this celebration.”
As part of the extended celebration, the peony farms will continue hosting their garden tours until Aug. 13. The Homer-Kachemak Bay Rotary Club peony sales, in partnership with the Alaska Beauty Peony Co-op, will also continue in front of the Homer Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center building on the Sterling Highway.
The walking map for self-guided tours is also still available on the Homer Chamber website, which prospective peony viewers can use to visit more than 20 local businesses that currently boast blooming peonies or peony murals, according to Knutson. Peony-related products also remain available for sale at the Homer Chamber and several local businesses.
The Alaska Beauty Peony Co-op is also hosting “You Pick” opportunities beginning Aug. 1. Locals and visitors can pick their own peonies for the first time this year, at Hidden Hills Peony Farm.