Swenson Gardens

Growing Peonies that don't flop



Another winter with limited snow so far for the peonies! As you can see in this picture, the only snow we have remaining as of now are the drifts. With warmer then normal temps expected again this week, what should be white color on the ground is now brown. Most of our precipitation this winter was rain which still provided moisture to the ground because some of the frost has left. For those of you in USDA zones 2-4 that planted new peonies last fall, did you mulch are peonies? If you didn’t and you do not have any snow to insulate the ground, might I suggest to mulch them now? With the warmer daytime temps (thawing) and colder nighttime temps (freezing), some newly planted peonies may be forced above the ground. Mulching will prevent this from happening until this spring when the nighttime temps are warmer. Once the peonies have made it through their first USDA zones 2-4 winter, mulching does not have to be done.



Greeting friends! Its been awhile since I posted. I hope your winter is going well and for those of you in USDA zones 7 and 8a, I imagine your peony soldiers are showing growth above ground level. As Becky had posted earlier, yours truly had sinuses surgery about 10-days ago. For those of you who have had this done, I now know that the recovery is a bear. Thank you for those who have kept me (and Becky) in your thoughts and prayers as this has not been a pleasant experience. Thankfully Becky has been great taking care of me. Although it appears as of late that she needs to run to the local organic grocery store and is very willing to help out at church activities? Not sure what that is all about? I keep saying this too shall pass (recovery that is) and in a few weeks my sinuses will be better than before! Two milestones were achieved within a week whereby I could smell and taste again! My, my I forgot how good organic fried eggs taste! Can’t wait to smell the peonies this spring!


Life on the peony farm has a new member to the fertilizer production team. Meet ‘Patriot’ who was born a few days ago. He is a long legged Dexter and his mom is ‘Daisy’. This is ‘Elvis Lee’s’ first offspring and he is so proud! You can see Elvis Lee lumbering towards us in the upper left corner of this picture. Always the protective dad which is paramount to the success and safety of our herd. Patriot is a ‘red Dexter’ like his father. Red is one of the most sought after colors within the Dexter’s so its father like son. Daisy by the way, is a dunn Dexter. We have high hopes for many red colored offspring from Elvis Lee. Our former herd sire (bull) Buford, gave us a few red’s and dunn’s, but most of his offspring were black in color. All of the fertilizer production team members are doing great this winter, but they and the peonies are anxious for spring!


The peonies are blooming on our 2017 website! Hi gardening friends, Becky here. We just launched our new 2017 website moments ago. Enjoy your visit whether you are a returning customer or new peony enthusiast. Keith will be back on the blog in a couple of weeks as I had the pleasure of accompanying him to another one-day surgery procedure. Nothing too spectacular other than opening up his sinuses that have plagued him over the last few winters. Say a prayer for me as I attend to his needs, well for him too! Thanks again for stopping by and enjoy our 2017 website for some amazing peonies and especially our intersectional/Itoh hybrid peonies!



The peonies updates are finally done on our end and off to our very capable webmaster to do his thing! Hard to believe that seven weeks of photography during the bloom season, cropping a few hundred of the almost 3,000 photos taken, editing and proofing are now down to a CD. This time of year is fun to go through all the photos and try and pick the ones that look nice for the website. This year we kept our web designers homepage as is after all the positive feedback we received last year. We asked her for an easy to navigate page and wow did she do her magic. Yes it costs a lot of money to retain her, but she has been designing our site since we first started. She is an national award winning designer and can’t thank her enough! Our webmaster will update us on the 2017 launch date when more facts are available. We can’t wait to show off some of our peonies to you!



And who thought only peonies had fun in the winter snow! Almost four inches of snow fell today and the fertilizer production team had fun both inside the barn and in the loafing area. We still can’t believe these crazy adult cows who love to sleep and stay outside when its snowing. All the young ones though prefer to stay in the barn. Bessie aka ‘crooked horn’ the black cow on the left, is ever so watchful of her calf born this fall on the right. She makes sure her calf stays almost in the barn instead of coming to meet Becky when she took these pictures. Our matriarch cow Daisy, just Daisy for her, doesn’t like going in the barn and would rather stay out in the snow. If only the peonies were awake to thank the fertilizer production teams for hanging in there during a snowstorm until they wake up in the spring!

2017 Swenson Gardens Peonies Website Update

2016 Peony Snow Field-1

For us up here in the north country, the peonies are sound asleep! That doesn’t mean we have been though. We are assuming early February, 2017 for our new launch. Of course that may change so will update as more facts are available. Though the ground is fairly white with snow outside, we sure could use some more! Happy New Year gardening friends! We wish you a healthy and peaceful 2017. Oh and Happy New Year to all the peonies too.

Got your peonies mulched?


The Swenson Gardens 2016 newly planted peonies are now mulched! Redd was supervising the event and is recommending all peony gardeners in USDA Zones 2-5 to mulch your 2016 newly planted peonies as long as there is 2 to 4 inches of frost in the ground. We use chopped up corn stalks but pine boughs, straw and wood chips will work as well. Mulching is not to protect them from frigid temperatures. Mulching is to prevent heaving of the roots in late winter and early spring from the freeze/thaw events. Sleep well PEONIES and will see you in the spring!

the generational love of peonies!


Can peonies be enjoyed for generations? Well yes and no! I know I posted this picture before so please bear with me on this post. The only generation missing from this photo is my grandma who LOVED any kind of flowers. So much so that she passed on her love of flowers to my dad who in turn passed on to me and now that our kids are young adults, perhaps they too will carry-on their generation of loving flowers…especially peonies! So my answer for ‘yes’ is the fact that we need to pass the joy of growing flowers and harvesting their blooms on to the next generation. My grandma and dad would attest to the joy of harvesting tulip blooms when at age 5, I cut off all her tulip blooms. That was two generations who inspired me to LOVE flowers! Thus my answer for ‘no’ above may be attributed to current generations passing on their love to the next generation. Perhaps next growing season we all could do a better job at ‘hands on’ designing a flower, vegetable and fruit gardens to the next generation! Yes its fun to see instant gratification of lovely pictures on various sites, but why not take pictures of children enjoying the fruits of their labor? Just a thought…

Speaking of fruits, (not me even though I’ve been known to be a tad intense/OCD/nuts), my job as a 10-year old was to weed and pick strawberries. Little did I know that a few decades later I would do that in our strawberry patch. And yes our kids have been known to do the same only to say ‘these are the best strawberries i ever tasted’. Interesting…not if I’m passing that love on to the next generation. Things did get a little out of hand when I asked Becky if I could plant some raspberries? She wholeheartedly agreed! Things got a little weird when I pulled a tree planter home from our local soil and water office. Of course she asked what was the tree planter for and mentioned that it might be to plant raspberries! Of course the normal question was ‘well how many are you planting?’ Rather sheepishly i replied, 1,500! So now when I ask her if I can plant more fruit crops, she doesn’t ask ‘how many’!


I know my love of birds, especially Purple Martins came from my dad. Growing up my dad would feed all the song birds, including sparrows. Who needs funny videos when the sight of my mom chasing the sparrows away from the feeders with a broom in hand in the middle of winter will always be hardwired in my memories. Dad would have to sneak food into the feeders when mom wasn’t home as his tender heart loved all living things. On major Holiday’s, he would put a dish of food from the table together and give to our cat and dog. And yes that generational love is the same today with all our animals and songbirds. This past Thanksgiving I put together a plate of table fare to give to our cats and Redd. And yes the bird feeder is always full except that no one is chasing the sparrows away from the feeder with a broom!:)

murphy 1

Not to leave out our fertilizer production team, the generation love of cows was also passed on to me. Our team is now up to 25 members and doing well. I was going through some of my dads cherished newspaper articles and found one dated 1959. There was a picture of my mom and dad with me on his lap. Little did I know that he was the dairy farmer of the year in Wisconsin.


Getting back to vegetables, my dad is seen teaching our kids the art of planting a vegetable garden. I always remember at that age when my dad would bring in vegetables, especially the cucumbers, from his garden. Lather on the mayonnaise bite by bite and still today that is my favorite garden vegetable…although the mayo is not lathered on as much due to the availability of that in our current eating plan.


The other generational love of outdoor activities was fishing! We grew up in Southwestern Wisconsin which had an abundance of trout streams. Before dad went to work in the morning, he loved to head out to his favorite trout holes to see if he could catch some wily trout. His love of fishing was passed on to him from his parents. I had the joy of fishing with my grandparents out of an old 16′ aluminum boat. Since my grandpa was blind, my grandma and I would do the rowing while he fished. In dad’s last visit to Burntside Lake in Ely, we had the chance to go out in our boat, not rowing of course nowadays.


Since dad wasn’t very mobile, his joy at our family cabin was to sit on the dock, drink a cup of coffee and look out at the postcard view. We’d ask him if he was ok and his answer was ‘great, great, great’!


This picture will always be remembered as he is explaining (and showing off) his beloved peony garden after my mom passed away. He kept careful records on when each peony bloomed and how blooms each plant had. The highlight of the year for him was the peony bloom season. Since he lived up in Superior, WI, his bloom time came later than what we have down here so we were able to see and enjoy his peony garden after our busy season.


After my mom passed away 2 1/2 years ago, dad had an event so for the last 4+ years, many miles were put driving 250 miles each way to attend to my mom and dad. On this particular visit, the infamous Redd came with me. Though dads memory was failing, I could tell his love of animals perked up. Redd didn’t care that Grandpa called him ‘Fido’ from his dog as a young boy. And yes Redd was on his best behavior while visiting. Did Redd know something and wanted Grandpa to know that it was ok to snuggle with him? Dad had been in the nursing home for 1 year and nine months. I haven’t posted for awhile as I’ve had three end of life calls with my dad in the last couple of months.


I am humbled and honored to have my dad with us for 92 years and 30-days. As I’m writing this last paragraph the tears are streaming on to the keyboard as he is no longer with us. He will be greatly missed but knowing he has been a man of God and a prayer warrior for all, gives me comfort that I will see him again. One of the joys in this whole end of life process was to find my Grandpa’s obituary. Unbeknownst to my sister and I, our dad’s obituary read almost the same as our Grandpa’s! Is that cool or what? Generational love? I agree wholeheartedly! Please hug your family members today and tell them you love them! I know my dad loved me and my family and I know for sure that the patriarch of peonies, loved PEONIES!