Swenson Gardens

Monthly Archive: May 2018

PEONY FIELD JOTTINGS…

With the warmer temps this past week, the peonies really took off above the ground. As I mentioned in a post or two last year, we are blessed with multiple growing fields on different soil types and various micro-climates. So in one of our fields that has black dirt (which warms up the fastest) and with its own micro-climate, the winner of the first peony to bloom is ‘Starlight’. Very strange to have a herbaceous bloom before the tree peonies but oh the joy to see color in this particular field. Welcome to our 2018 peony season at Swenson Gardens!

Coming in a close second is our sub. species ‘huthii’. Because of the overcast conditions and cooler temps, ‘huthii’ did not open all the way so that is why second place is awarded.

Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement regarding Peony Field Days in the very near future. We are waiting for another one of our fields to progress more. That field is mostly clay and loam soil so it takes a bit longer to warm up. With above normal temps forecasted next week, we should be able to announce the dates for June. Last fall we started to transition peonies back to the east of our driveway where many of you have walked a few years ago. The field west of our driveway was mainly used for filling peony orders but there are still many varieties left to show. We are also filling in the south side of that field as a display area that will show an amazing palette of color in two years. For those of you who have never been to Peony Field Days, we are NOT a nursery with cement or gravel walkways. You are actually walking through some of our production fields. Yes we do plant an annual cover crop between the rows, but for those of you who have been out here after rain and storms, it can be a tad muddy in areas. Because our fields change every year, we try our best to make it visually appealing and most of all informative and educational on how to grow peonies without chemicals as we do at this large of a scale. Oh and you will also see a plethora of peonies that are not found anywhere else in the US and for that matter in the world!

LIFE ON THE PEONY FARM

The sights, smells and sounds sure have blossomed this week on the peony farm. Crab apples and apple trees are at their peak bloom and oh what a sight and smell they present. Having a camera ready with Heidi going crazy trying to catch falling petals from a crab apple tree did not turn out so I had them sit in the next sequence of pictures to at least I could try to catch the moment of chaos.

Thankfully this is not snow on the ground or hail but the sweet remaining fragrance of the crab apple petals. I should bring another person with me so I could have photographed Heidi jumping quite high in the air trying to catch the petals. Happiness abounded with these antics on the peony farm this morning!

PEONIES FIELD JOTTINGS…

Peonies field jottings is now posting to bring you up to date on what is happening in our peony fields. As you know from previous posts, the mid April blizzard and single digit temperatures really set us back for a ‘normal’ spring. What is normal? For me it is whatever our Creator decides to give us. When we first started growing peonies commercially in 2002, I was a basket-case trying to figure out weeks in advance what needed to be done. Yes the phrase ‘one day at a time’ prevails now, so trying to control the weather and what needs to be done has been replaced with ‘it is what it is’! So for the last couple of weeks it has been peaceful and organized mayhem knowing what needs to be done. Last year it took the mulch removal team 2 1/2 days to remove the mulch from 1,500 or so new peony plants.¬† This year it took 9 hours to remove the mulch from 2,500 or so from the new peony plants! Thank you Lord was the shout out from the team as they were dreading that step once the ground temperature warmed up. Ok now on to the cover crop planting in the peony rows and new areas getting ready for peonies this fall.

The larger areas were planted with cover crop seeds with our neighbors drill. Planting between the rows were done with a drop seeder. We do need some rain to settle the seed in, but again, that will be ‘some day’! My did the above ground growth take off this week! Yes the top 3 to 4 inches of soil is now dry, but because of the late season blizzard and subsequent slow melting, we have wonderful moisture content in the soil where it matters most…around the peony roots!

My what a change of color versus a few weeks ago!

Some of the very early to early peony varieties are filling out their foliage and starting to set marble size buds.

Another example of a very early peony variety that presents itself with an eye catching maroon and green foliage characteristic. Varieties with maroon or dark red stems will show that color in the foliage until they mature into all green as the season progresses. Not sure if we are more excited about the foliage or blooms as they both are an attractive addition to gardens!

The intersectional hybrid or Itoh peonies are also starting to show. They seem to hang back a tad in timing similar to late blooming peonies. The excitement of our 2018 peony season is starting to build! Check back for additional posts on our peonies field jottings for updates throughout the season.

LIFE ON THE PEONY FARM

The last couple of weeks have been rather mundane on the peony farm except when the Purple Martins return! Yes our 3 Martin houses are getting full of both immature and adult Martins’. This is a glorious time of the spring when we can enjoy their aerobatic antics and soothing sounds. Earlier in the week a Peregrine Falcon was migrating through and the colonies of Martins’ made sure the he or she continued to fly north vs taking up residence in their territory. Interesting that the Martins’ allow a pair of Red-tail hawks to reside on our property.

Perhaps next year we may have to add more PM houses?

We don’t know for sure how many pairs have taken up residence here as they settle in to their new homes. Heidi is sure amazed at the Martins’ as she doesn’t quite understand the fuss when I stop near them to look and listen. This has been a breakthrough week with Heidi! She can now go on walks with us without her leash!

Redd of course still needs an e-collar as his nose is so in tune to game birds, mice and rabbits. Once his nose gets on a scent, its hard to stop him unless a gentle vibrating sensation is felt on his neck.

Both of them this morning were barking at our neighbor to south of us while he was doing some fieldwork. One of the reasons for taking both of them, but especially Heidi for walks and rides around our property is to establish boundary lines. A friend of mine who has Shepards’ said to do that while they are puppies. Seems to be working with Heidi as she was first to start barking when we reached the south end of our property. Very cool!

I know I’ve taken way to many photos of Heidi facing me, but this shot will now lend itself to a 360 degree look at her colors. At 6-months old, her coloring has settled in to this pattern since posting a couple of weeks ago. Life on the peony farm has now achieved the excitement of peonies field jottings…see next post!