Swenson Gardens

Growing Peonies that don't flop

Peony Field Days

DSC06259Oh what a day makes in the peony fields! We jumped from about 10% color yesterday to now 20% moments ago. Hooray for color! Here is the list of varieties in bloom for the start of Peony Field Days on 6/5 and 6/6: America, Anderson’s Kaleidoscope, Archangel, Bess Bockstoce, Buckeye Belle, Burma Midnight, Carnation Bouquet, Cheese Country, Cherry Charm, Chocolate Soldier, Coral Sunset, Court Jester, Eliza Lundy, Erma, Frist Arrival, Garden Treasure, Going Bananas, Goldilocks, Joker, Julia Rose, Laura Magnuson, Lotus Bloom, Louis Van Houtte, Lovebirds, May Lilac, Morning Lilac, Old Rose Dandy, Pastel Splendor, Postillion, Prairie Charm, Raspberry Charm, Red Charm, Red Grace, Rivida, Rose Diamond, Rosedale, Salmon Beauty, Scarlet O’Hara, Sequestured Sunshine, Serenade, Solot Flight and Unique. Who knows what will show up later on today so for now this will be the last variety blooming post for June 5th and 6th. Next week I’ll update what is in bloom for the Peony Field Days on June 12th and 13th. Please note we are not open on Sunday June 7th or Sunday June 14th. The time is 9 am to 5 PM for Peony Field Days and address is 10958 70th St SW, Howard Lake, MN. Now a few items I need to discuss on visiting our farm: 70th St SW in front of our driveway is a mess from frost heaves and rain. Once you turn on to our driveway head north to our information tent for parking instructions. Do not park anywhere on our driveway south of the information tent. Our driveway is very steep on both sides before you get to the information tent. Please be careful if you meet a car on our driveway or better yet, wait till any car has entered or exited the driveway before proceeding. If you are on 70th St SW and you see a car coming south on our driveway, please wait until they have left the driveway before proceeding north to the information tent. Again we are dog friendly as long as they keep their owner on a leash and the owner cleans up all doggy compost and brings home with them. Restrooms? Yes we have a portable onsite. WATERPROOF BOOTS A MUST FOR JUNE 5th and JUNE 6th! Yes it is muddy in the fields but should dry out today and tomorrow. The other Minnesota State bird…unfortunately yes! Not too bad yet, but with the warmer weather and lots of rain, might be their time to show up. Please do not apply mosquito repellant near the peonies! I would suggest applying by your vehicles.  The field where the information tent is located is wheel chair accessible in some viewing areas. Please be patient when those gardeners are being dropped off at the information tent. Also for those of you who want to enjoy the peony view from your vehicles, there is a turn around past our home on top of the hill so you can view from both sides of your vehicle. Motorcycle parking is available in back of our home on a cement pad by the attached garage. However, getting here on 70th St SW may be a nightmare with all the mud and recently applied soft gravel. Photography tours? I’ll be watching for shutterbugs and if you see a group of people with cameras, please join us. IF inclement weather happens to show up at the last minute, will post any cancellations on Facebook, Blog and 763.350.2051. Make sure to stop in and visit Cattail Corner on the east side of Howard Lake and view their annual plantings in front of our home. They have some unique stuff for all gardeners and pet owners. If your plans are to have lunch or dinner out this way, might I suggest the following in Howard Lake; Sunrise Cafe (the old Sunnis Grill but only open until 2 PM) and Troubles (wonderful barbeque!) or Waverly Cafe (home cooking at its best) or Peppermint Twist in Delano. Have a safe trip and enjoy your time at Swenson Gardens Peony Field Days!

Peony Field Days

DSC06251The intersectional hybrid peonies are starting to show! This is my most anticipated time of the bloom season as i ‘love’ these plants! For those of you planning on coming out on June 5th or 6th, tomorrow evening will post a list of plants in bloom. With all our micro-climates and soil types in our fields, blooms are different in the two fields that will be open to the public. My guess for overall color is about 7 to 10% and we are now starting to see some early to mids and mids just starting. Julia Rose started yesterday as well. As I mentioned in a previous post on our old blog, for those of you who have attended in the past, that field has about 50% less peonies then last year. We are transitioning out of that field and yes we sold a bunch last year. For first timers coming out, you will be walking through our production fields. No greenhouse or cement walkways and in fact for the 5th and 6th, wear waterproof boots! With the rain and our new growing techniques without cover crops, it is bare dirt between the rows. Looks like things may dry up before Friday and Saturday after we get through some more rain overnight. With two days of continuous wind out of the south, we did loose some stems on the ‘floppers’. Other news of note is that we closed out our original production field in Delano. We kept that going to fill our cut flower orders but our focus is now bare-root and hybridizing so we are no longer selling cut flowers. Speaking of hybridizing, you will probably see Danny in the fields during Peony Field Days so feel free to ask him any questions as it is prime season for him now. Happy gardening and see you soon in our peony fields!

Peony field jottings…

DSC06245Winterthur, a Saunder’s massive early peony, is just finishing up in one of our garden beds. With over an inch of new rainfall today, his blooms are still holding strong. All fieldwork was called off today due to the rain and thunderstorms. The weed crew finished up yesterday for their weekly adventure, without mosquitoes until about 8 PM last night. I don’t want to talk about mosquitoes too much as that was our first sightings of the season.

DSC06243May Lilac is also finishing up her blooms with great color (and effects of the rain) still showing. Taking shots after a rain can be breathtaking in the right light conditions of which I had moments ago. Enjoy!

Bess Bockstoce Peony

DSC06048Here is the Bess Bockstoce peony in the starting bloom phase. For an early ‘pink’ she cannot be surpassed with an extended bloom time on the plant and in a vase. My second favorite pink is The Fawn. He or she will not be present for a couple of weeks. I know I mentioned Bess on previous post and you can view online, but I’m trying to update photos for next years website so you can see her now. If you love the color pink, Bess Bockstoce is your peony!

Peony field jottings…

DSC06134The ‘green’ peony color…of the foliage…continues today. A few smatterings of whites, corals, reds and pinks starting to show. Lots of work going on as we prepare for Peony Field Days before the rain begins on Tuesday night. Looks like later in the week the nice weather returns. Very deceiving when you look at the depth of field on this picture taken with a 300mm lens. In reality, these rows are 600 to 700 feet long. Each row contains 200 to 250 peonies.

DSC06133On the other side of our driveway its rather tough to see too much color here as well. Bess Bockstoce, which is my favorite ‘pink’ double peony either in the garden or in a vase, started to show yesterday. When she is in bloom, what a show stopper! If you hover over the pic and click to enlarge, she is in upper left hand corner.  The first Red Charm blooms are just starting to show as well in the lower center rows. In other areas of the fields, May Lilac, Athena, Lovebirds, some new early surprises for next year and Archangel are almost in full bloom. This now moves up field color to about 5%. Long ways to go before Friday’s Peony Field Days. With 80 degrees forecast for tomorrow, my guess is some of the corals will start to pop. Rose Nobel, Seraphim, Nova, sub ‘huthii’, Reward and Lil’ Sweetie are done. No intersectional hybrid peonies showing yet.

Photographing peonies…

DSC05990  Our first Red Charm peony started to bloom yesterday in one of our ‘micro-climate’ sites. In a future post, I will talk more about this phenomenon as it pertains to gardening with peonies at our homes. I have a series of shots to follow that were shot with different aperture settings. Lets call this peony shot number 1.

DSC05991Peony shot number 2.

DSC05992Peony shot number 3.

DSC05993Peony shot number 4. On a calm day, I like to adjust aperture versus shutter speeds in order get the color spot on. So which one is your favorite? As I mentioned in previous post, red is one of the toughest colors to shoot. It can go blue, brown or pink. During sunny days it can saturate and flare unless your using a diffuser. Yesterday I had a huge diffuser in the sky before the rains started. In these photos the ‘red’ is true to color on the Red Charm peony. Have fun with your aperture settings while shooting peonies in manual mode.


Peony field jottings…

DSC06003The rains came down and the sun came up today on the peonies. Over an 1 1/2″ of rain yesterday so field work, (and blooms) have stopped for today. The weather person says 39 degrees F tonight for a low? And who said Minnesota peonies aren’t tough! Green is still the color of the day with maybe 3% color in the fields. But oh what color! With the cooler spring and moderate temps, most of the blooms are HUGE and vibrant coloration. We will continue to update on percentage of color in the fields on a day to day basis. Peony bloom time is stuck in the very early varieties with very few early varieties showing.

Peony Field Days Update

Peony Field Days Pic 7 copyDestination Peonies! Peonies are slowly opening up. So as of today, maybe 1-2% color in the fields. So far we are still in the very early to a few early varieties opening up. Here are all the dates, June 5, 6, 12 and 13 from 9 am to 5 PM (weather permitting). Thankfully over the years I think we’ve had to cancel about three dates due to storms. We will post on our Blog, Facebook and recorded message at 763.350.2051 should threatening storms, flooded driveway and a blizzard (ha, ha) prevents all from attending that specific day. The 5th and the 12th are Friday’s and the 6th and the 13th are Saturday’s. We are not open on Sunday’s. The address is 10958 70th St SW, Howard Lake, MN. Two of our fields will be open for walking and enjoying the beauty of peonies. One of our fields is wheelchair accessible and for some you can drive by during these specific days for a lovely view from our driveway. The second field to view requires waterproof boots depending on previous rains but its time to let you see some of the varieties that are not present in our other field. Please, please be careful when our gardening friends are getting out of their vehicles as parking will be north of the information tent on both sides of the driveway and up by our home where cars are turning around. Overflow parking once all the driveway spots are taken will have signs directing you to our riding arena which is located to the north of the turn around driveway circle. Also this is a working farm with electric fences and other items that are not safe to be around. If bringing small children please keep them in eye sight range and do not let them run in the peony fields as well as near the pond, animals, equipment and fencing. All who are on our property are entering at your own risk. Swenson Gardens, Keith and Becky Swenson and any staff member does not assume any liability implied, stated and incurred during your visit on our property. (Sorry but new insurance policy requires us to post this.) We want all to have a safe and enjoyable visit to our farm and most importantly, the peonies! As mentioned before, we LOVE dogs as long as they keep their owners on a leash or maybe its the other way around. Yes you may walk with them in the peony rows and around our farm as long as you pick up the you know what and take home with you. Did I say BRING YOUR CAMERA? Here’s another surprise, I will be giving introduction to photographing peonies tours throughout the day. I have a couple of diffusers you can use and will be taking your cameras to the next level of shooting for those of you who are still shooing in the ‘auto’ mode. Will continue to update the Blog and Facebook with percentage of color in the fields as we get closer to Peony Field Days. Might I even suggest two visits to Swenson Gardens fields? You will see different peonies blooming on the 12th & 13th vs the 5th and 6th. Time to head out and shoot some more peonies, with a camera of course!

Peony field jottings…

DSC05924 DSC05922And the ‘green’ continues. Not much happening in the fields for color over the past few days. Today the rains started around noon again. Took these photos from our front steps with a 70-300 zoom lens set at approximately 250 mm. Distance was at least 200 yards so the field of view is very deceiving. From our house to the end of our driveway is 440 yards and the tree in the background is at least a mile away from where this picture was taken. Pretty cool though! The hybridizing crew, aka Becky and Danny had to stop their pollen collecting early when the rain began. With all the tree peonies starting to open up, they were hoping to collect more pollen before the 85 degrees surprises us tomorrow. Currently 59 degrees outside so assuming we may have a 30 degree swing in temps tomorrow. This will definitely speed up the blooms for a couple of days but back down we go on Friday with another cold front coming through to spawn more storms. Tough to get photos of the very early varieties in the rain. Over the weekend maybe a handful of very early varieties like Rose Nobel, Sprite, Athena, Japanese and Lutea tree’s and Roselette’s Child started to bloom. Hope you all had a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. Thanks again to all those who have and are serving in the military. We appreciate you and your family’s for serving our Country!

Purple Martins

DSC05929Continuous rain today has grounded the flight path of the Martins today. At last count we have at least 12 pairs nesting in our two houses. Lots of activity before the rain so am assuming it was feeding time. Once it clears up will be counting the young ones in this house as we have a cable system to raise and lower it. Fun!