Swenson Gardens

Growing Peonies that don't flop

Photography jottings 2…

Honey Bee and Trefoil1Just 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.

Brohme Grass1Brohme grass is one of many types or grass planted in our pollinator field.

Black Eye Susan1Black 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!

Photography jottings 1…

Tree Swallows-1Without 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.

Clouds-1Photographing 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.

Purple Martins Update

purple martinsWe’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!!!!!

Sad day on our peony farm…

BrownieFor 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’!

Photographing peony…surprises?

Ruth Cobb SpidersTonight’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!

Peony field jottings…

Ruth CobbGreetings 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‘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.

Felix SupremeAn old fashion ‘Felix Supreme’ came in third with only secondary blooms. All the primary’s are done and yes he does need staking as most of the blooms were kissing the earth.

Old FaithfulFourth 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!

Prairie CharmSome 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…Coral CharmWould 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!

Happy Father’s Day!

IMG_0881Isn’t it fun to go back through some early pictures of our dad’s! This photo was taken in the spring of 2004 in our first peony field. Yesterday I had the chance to visit him at his long term care facility where he is living. At 90+ years old, it was fun to reminisce about some of the ‘times’ he had on our peony farm. He always loves spending time in the fields, yes, weeding and watering in the plants when they were first planted. He also loved coffee even on hot days. Since we were leasing land on our first field in Delano, I received a call from the land owner that they did not see my dad in the field. I told them he might be taking a nap under a tree as he liked to do. No sighting of him and thoughts of him wandering off and passing on came to mind. We were living about 2 miles away from the field so off we went to try and find him. After combing the fields and adjoining woods we couldn’t find him. We then started to expand our search and low and behold, found him walking a few blocks away from our home. Upon driving up to him, we asked him what happened? He said he needed more ‘coffee’ so he walked the mile and a half to a gas station and had a cup of coffee! So all dad’s today, enjoy a cup a coffee and be thankful you have the chance to do that! So yesterday, I bought dad a cup of coffee (and a donut) to celebrate Father’s Day! Happy Father’s Day dad and thanks for your love of farming!

Peony field jottings…

Victoria LincolnNot sure if it is busier preparing for Peony Field Days or catching up after its over! We still have some late’s to open but I did want to post a picture that is coming on our website. Victoria Lincoln is this variety and seeing her bloom for the first time as a mature plant really caught my eye. Nice stiff stems and extended bloom time. We are also seeing many of the side/secondary blooms starting to bloom. Flowers may not be as big but oh what fun to see more color! Speaking of color, Bartzella and Garden Treasure continue to put on a show. All our kids are back from their trips so it will be nice to catch up with them as well. Happy gardening!

Peony Field Days 2015 Recap

DSC09179Thank you to the 2,400+ gardeners, photographers, artists and friends who visited Peony Field Days over the four days of being open to the public this year! It was fun to talk with you and share, what we think, a piece of Heaven. We are so blessed to be able to share this with you and trust your returning or first visit to our fields was a treat as well. It is hard to predict the weather and bloom times but for those of you who attended on June 13th, that was the overall peak color percentage this year. Even yesterday, June 14th, the fields have started their downward  progression for overall color. With some late varieties and of course the amazing intersectional hybrids, are still waiting to bloom, I’ll update with ‘colors’ as the weeks progress. Yes weeks on some intersectionals! In years past, ‘Bartzella’ has had color for four weeks. Topeka Coral, pictured above, was the overall winner for number of bare-root peonies ordered. She put on a display over the last two weeks that wowed even us! Close behind was Bartzella, Hillary, Candy Stripe, Red Grace, Coral Sunset and many others. Thank you again for visiting Peony Field Days, entrusting us with growing chemical -free peonies and placing orders with Swenson Gardens. Ordering is still available through our online store and by going to our ‘How to order’ page for printable order forms. Pick up orders are only available through mail-order and NOT through our online store. Happy gardening!

Peony Field Day Update for June 13th

We have a very light drizzle that just started out here. Might want to bring rain gear and umbrella just to be sure. Fields are still dry but waterproof boots may be wise as well to bring. Doesn’t appear like rain but off and on drizzle. See you at Peony Field Days!