The last color in our peony fields ended on July 10th. Almost 9-weeks of color this year since the first bloom appeared on May 9th. With the cooler temps and cloudy days at the start of bloom, that added another 10-14 days of color towards the end of the bloom. We normally average 7-8 weeks of color in the fields so this was an exceptional bloom season of color! For us home peony gardeners, that is why we stress early, mid and late bloomers to enjoy color over a longer period of time. Things have quietened down here on the peony farm, except the weeds and field maintenance. The weed crew continues to do an excellent job in their weekly jaunts through the fields. Now with the higher temps and the cooler temp weeds ending, things should slow down for them in the next few weeks. Hope all is well in your gardens!
With most of the peonies color gone in the field, now what do I photograph? Yes I can spend time in the pollinator field awaiting more wild flowers to bloom, however, I think there is still beauty in a peony spent bloom. Would you have guessed ‘Candy Stripe’ in this picture? From the naked eye he looked rather dull but looking through the macro lens, I got excited. Left click on this pic and see what you think? The remnants of Candy Stripe’s bi-colored petals are still noticeable.
Now lets go closer in with the Tamron 90mm macro lens. Very cool! His seed pods are starting to enlarge with her little babies starting to grow. His/her pregnancy lasts for about two months before giving birth (seed pods open up and walla…new peony babies). For this post it is all about the spent blooms beauty and in the future will post more on our hybridizing efforts and how you too can do this next year. Happy gardening and please enjoy your spent peony blooms!
For those of you who spotted a few Monarch butterflies in the peony fields, here is what they were looking for. Yes the often despised Milkweed. Here on our farm, we try to avoid removing Milkweed! If you’ve been following the collapse of the Monarch’s, anything we can do to help them is our mission! Normally we have dozens of Monarchs using our pollinator field, but since the drought in Texas/Mexico in 2013 and 2014, there was no food for them to carry out their migration over that great distance. I looked through many Milkweeds and no signs yet! I remember as a kid collecting Monarch caterpillars and wish today I could find a Monarch caterpillar. I’ll keep looking though and inform if I find some. They are just too beautiful to not try and help them!
I just envision in my mind photographing a Monarch atop the Butterfly Weed. Maybe someday! This was one of the toughest wild flowers to grow but finally after a controlled burn in year 3 of establishing our pollinator field, they showed up in year 4. These are another Monarch attractor for its food source. Now that we have a few spots established, they should self seed and expand more. Since I don’t use PhotoShop or Lightroom, at least in our mind we can see a Monarch taking advantage of the Butterfly Weed!
Just north of our peony field, the ‘pollinator field’ is starting to bloom. We worked with the Wright County NCRS office to set up one of the first pollinator fields under the USDA Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) in Wright County, MN. Because we are an island in amongst agriculture crop land, loss of habitat for honey bees, upland birds and song birds are a significant problem, but not on our farm! The overall health of all plants are dependent on insects and most of all honey bees! This particular honey bee was busy attending to the Trefoil plant. Besides being a wonderful honey bee plant, we have also planted this in one of our rotational grazing fields for the cattle. With having two active honey bee hives, all the flowers (peonies especially), grasses and legumes do exceptionally well.
Black Eye Susan is just starting to bloom and will put on her show over the next month or two. The Trefoil plant appears in all its beauty next to her. Don’t you just love perennials? Welcome back…again!
Without peonies to photograph, I had a chance to bring out the macro lens again for some interesting shots. As you’ll see in the next few posts, it was a lot of fun being able to use this lens for multiple applications, including these Tree Swallows resting before the eminent storm approaches.
Photographing clouds and sun rays are very tempting to do, but how do you make it work? Stop shooting in automatic and switch to P or A/AV settings. With some ‘hot spots’ showing in upper left, overall the ‘rays’ in the center and right fulfilled all of their glory. This was shot in manual mode to emphasize the white in the rays.
We’re getting close to fledgling in a couple of weeks! We have access to 8 nests with an average of 5 each. The other 8 nests do not have access but thinking 5 each as well so the total as of now is approximately 80 young ones. This is the best number we’ve had since the first pair arrived four years ago. Next year we will put up another house. Very cool and parents are very busy right now. Thanks for your aerial shows during the day! I love those birds!!!!!
For some of you who have met ‘Brownie’ on our peony farm, she was always smiling! Her pain over the past few years did not affect her smile even to the end. It is with a very sad heart that we had to put her down on Tuesday and only today could I begin to share this moment with you. I never like to see any family member suffer so we had to make the choice based on the rest of her physical aliments preventing a pain free life. About a year and a half ago, a lump the size of a tennis ball continued to grow on her left hind leg. Upon its removal, the vet said it was very suspicious. With other lumps developing since then, arthritis, hip disorder, losing weight and trouble breathing, she still continued to smile and wanted her tummy rubbed. She will be dearly missed as she was our first dog on the peony farm in 2008. We to this day do not know how old she was. We rescued her from a facility in Buffalo, MN and they estimated her age at 3 to 5 years old. Upon finding out from the rescue facility that they found her abandoned along side a freeway in Bloomington, MN with signs of puppies, they thought that the previous owner kept the puppies and then dropped her off on the highway. After hearing that, she stole our hearts. We’ll never forget the ‘trips’ Brownie and Redd took while getting acclimated to our farm. Just a few to share like the time a neighbor a few miles away brought her back in their car, numerous trips to a turkey processing facility 2 miles away and the most memorable one was Becky receiving a call from a drunk guy who said he had our dogs locked in the women’s bathroom at the Howard Lake beach some 2 1/2 miles away because they were taking sandals from all the sun bathers. Becky then instructed me to call him back vs thinking she was being stalked. So off to the Howard Lake beach and here comes a guy with a beer in hand, stumbling over to the car. (I can do his impression better in person!) Sure enough here comes Brownie and Redd out of the women’s restroom at the beach. He wouldn’t take any money and I was surely not going to buy him a beer. Brownie, we are lost without you right now but know you are not in pain anymore. Thank you for touching our family and anybody that has met you. We will miss you dearly ‘sweet brown’!
Tonight’s peony photography walk in the field yielded some amazing pictures with the Tamron macro lens. I saw this angle and said WOW! You see a primary bud, somewhat tarnished by the rains, and its secondary bud bloomed first? Normally its the other way around. Looks cool right? Hover your cursor over the pic to blow it up and see what is hiding in the lower guard petals. Now I’m ok with snakes but not ok with spiders! The joy of shooting with a macro lens, I think! Most people would lightroom or photoshop those out, but I just had to share this with you. Happy shooting!
Greetings dear peony friends! Sorry for late post as we’ve been a tad busy after Peony Field Days, putting up nearly 80 round bales of hay and yes field maintenance. With all the off and on rain, the weeds have gone crazy without being able to keep ahead of them in the muddy fields. As I mentioned in an earlier post, tonight I had the chance to walk leisurely through the peony fields to see who might be the very last variety to bloom. Again the winner pictured here is ‘Ruth Cobb’. She has won for the past few years with the most primary and secondary blooms still showing. She also makes a wonderful cut flower, no staking and does not have any fragrance.
‘Chiffon Parfait’ came in second with the most peony color showing. Though Chiffon needs staking with its huge primary blooms and many side buds, it really is a treat to see it still in bloom. Chiffon also is a wonderful cut flower with extended vase life and mildly fragrant.
Fourth place went to ‘Old Faithful’ with all secondary blooms with most of them tarnished on the edges from all the rainfall. Yet his majestic appearance was held high due to his stout stems. You just have to have one or many ‘Old Faithful’ peonies as his stately appearance is truly a sight to behold!
Some one peony bloom wonders were hiding in some of the rows! ‘Prairie Charm’ was the only yellow intersectional hybrid peony bloom that I found. Yes it was a secondary bloom but oh what fun! Speaking of fun…Would you believe a ‘Coral Charm’ secondary bud was found in one of our micro-climate field locations? That truly made my night as finding hidden gems is a treat! Happy gardening to all!