So what do tree peonies do in late winter? Well in this case they either pray for snow or an early spring! The lonely old fashion snow fence stands bleakly barren of any snow drifts. Seems like when we put up various snow fences strategically around our gardens and home, snowfall is null in void and of course a few years ago when we didn’t put up the snow fence we had drifts up the peak of our garage! This particular tree peony is one of Roger Anderson’s Japanese tree peony seedlings. Japanese tree peonies seem to fare the best of all the tree peonies that we grow in this USDA zone. Yes dear tree peony lovers we will offer some of Anderson’s tree peony seedlings in a few years. We are growing them from seed so it takes a few more years to propagate tree peonies.
Our formal peony garden or labyrinth as some like to call it, looks rather bare amidst the cornstalk mulch and boxwood’s. The former owners of our farm use to have an Alpine Currant hedge properly manicured that looked spectacular. Since our farm was unoccupied for almost a year before we moved in, this formal garden was amass with every conceivable weeds and grasses. I have to be honest here as I went to a local farm chemical distributor to ask if they could suggest a way to rid the Alpine Currant of the grasses that took over the hedge. Oh sure was the response so it was off to the hardware store to pick up a hand pump sprayer. Well friends, that was the last time we would ever see the Alpine Currant hedge in our formal garden! Not only did it kill the grasses, but it also killed the Alpine Currant even though I used as directed and it said ‘will not harm shrubs’! Man was I sick and this formal garden sat bare for almost 6-years as I couldn’t get a grip on what I had done. To me this confirmed the fact that we will not use any chemicals on our farm! Thankfully we have never used any chemicals on the peonies and now after experiencing the formal garden debacle, last fall we planted 80 new herbaceous peonies in our formal garden.
There’s gold in that there hill for the intersectional/Itoh hybrid and herbaceous peonies! What may seem like a small hill in our north field is actually the cow manure from a year ago that we are composting for applications in our peony, hay and pasture fields. The key to composting at this scale is the fact that the manure from our fertilizer production team needs to winter over one-year in order to kill any weed seeds that may have passed through. We have used the term ‘sustainable, chemical-free peony grower‘ many times in the past but for those of you new to Swenson Gardens, let me explain. All the fertilizer, micro-nutrients and micro-organisms applied or generated in our peony fields are organic, chemical-free and mined minerals. All the hay and pasture used for feed receive the same treatments so we know what goes in and what comes out! Our passion for growing peonies this way has been an educational experience to gardeners who may or may not use chemicals. Why apply or use chemicals on peonies since they have already been growing without chemicals for thousands of years? The answer is speed and shortcuts! Why hand weed when you can spray? (Like paragraph two above!) Why use chemical fertilizers that sterilize the micro nutrients and organisms in the soil? Convenience or is that what you are being told by an expert who sells chemical fertilizer? Did grandma or grandpa have experts in 100+-year old farmsteads that still have peonies growing there today? I doubt it! Being a small, family owned peony grower, we cannot compete with the large chemical induced peony growers of the world; however, we can affirm our philosophy with like minded gardeners who choose to purchase their chemical-free bare-root peonies from us! We try to keep our pricing competitive but knowing the labor costs for hand-weeding our fields, maintaining our fertilizer production team and applying mined minerals, we may cost more. If your looking for ‘cheap’ peonies, you may be better off buying them elsewhere. If you are interested in buying sustainable, chemical-free bare-root peonies that are more vigorous and disease resistant than the ‘cheap’ peonies, welcome to the Swenson Gardens peony family!