Swenson Gardens



We will be open from 9a to 5P on Saturday, June 12, 2021. This is the final day to view our peonies in person at Swenson Gardens Peony Field Days. We have one field that is still at peak bloom for mid to late and late peony varieties. Its still worth the drive not only to view our peonies but also to enjoy our peony farm. Our address is 10958 70th St SW, Howard Lake. After June 12, 2021, please visit our online store at SwensonGardens.com to view our peonies and to place your order.

Thanks again for all of you who ventured out to Swenson Gardens Peony Field Days. If you chose the ‘pick up’ option on your order, we will see you on September 18 & 19, 2021 when you pick up your order.


The peonies are blooming! Though we had another 90F+ today, two of our largest fields are in peak bloom. These are located close to the information tent so once you park your vehicle walk north on our driveway to the white information tent for more details. Because of our micro-climate, they are later blooming due to the cooler temperatures in these areas.

As far as where we are at bloom times, the mid, mid to late and late varieties are at peak bloom. Most of the intersectionals/Itoh hybrid peonies have both primary and secondary bud blooms so you should be able to see most of them in bloom. For those of you who were at Peony Field Days last week, the field to the east of our home was at peak bloom for many intersectional/Itoh hybrid peonies. This week only the secondary buds are in bloom but it is still worth a walk up to our home to view this field and visit our formal garden northwest of our home.

We have lots of shade areas available for picnics and multiple mini biffs are strategically located. Based on the current forecast, looks like cooler temperatures will prevail. You will also notice a chance of rain/thunderstorms for Howard Lake, MN. We do not allow anyone in our fields if thunder and lightening is in the area. You can wait in your vehicle until the isolated storms pass or watch the radar to determine the best time to come out to our peony farm.

Friday, June 11th, we are open from 9a to 5P. The address again is 10958 70th ST SW, Howard Lake, MN. Looking forward to seeing you at Swenson Gardens Peony Field Days!


Whenever I post this the door is open for additional questions so thank you for those of you who have emailed me. Please read on for revisions to my previous post. This is not a life or death event for peonies as they are way smarter than us mere humans. One key sign that peonies need a slow drink of water is when they wilt. That said, peonies will also wilt during freezing temperatures and TOO MUCH WATER! See my conundrum? Alerting gardeners to water their peonies opens up way too many ‘what if’s’ versus looking at your peonies to see if they are wilting during drought or way too much water.

If, IF you have had ‘normal’ growing conditions, you do not need to water your peonies if you are in USDA zones 2-4. Those of you in USDA zones 5-8a, you hopefully know what to do. Here on our peony farm we do not water all our peonies as we want them to experience all life lessons no mater the weather conditions. Last night we gave some of the American Peony Society members a private tour of our peony farm. All were amazed at the condition of our peonies and the blooms that have weathered (no pun intended) our recent string of 90F+ degree days (including 102F last Saturday) and the lack of moisture due to our extended drought. Again peonies are way too smart for me!

If you choose to water your peonies in USDA zones 2-4, only do it 1x per week as noted in my previous post. Thus the slow shower soak of water around the drip line for 5 minutes per plant, check the drip line by sticking your finger into the soil in a couple of days to see if dry (reapply water) or wet (do not apply water); should only be done 1x per week until July 5th.

Sorry we cannot answer all your emails directly at this time as we are amass in peony blooms pictures and Peony Field Days. Thanks.


For those of you in all USDA growing zones that are besieged with extremely high temperatures and lack of rainfall over the past few weeks, we are suggesting you water your peonies now. Peonies start their new growth for next year a few weeks after the last blooms are spent. Thus hand watering them now affords much needed moisture for next years growth.

So how do you hand water peonies? The key is SLOWLY! Peonies take in moisture similar to trees and shrubs meaning at their drip lines. Peonies drip line is at the edge of their foliage. DO NOT WATER PEONIES IN THE CENTER OF THE PLANT WHERE THE CROWN IS LOCATED! Slowly add water around the drip line of the plant with a shower like water container or use the ‘shower’ feature on your handheld sprayer going around the peony for five minutes in the early morning and again the same in the evening.

For those of us in USDA Zones 2-4, hand watering peonies has always been a no no, but based on the weeks of no rainfall and the many days of record setting high temperatures, yes this is a peony watering alert! Those of you in USDA zones 5 and higher, hand watering peonies is a way of life in your gardens so continue doing what has worked for you. The key though is to make sure the peonies drip line dries out at least 3 to 4 inches below ground level before you hand water again.

After the first two applications, wait another two days before checking the moisture depth in their drip line. Stick your finger down into the drip line 3 to 4 inches to see if it is still dry or the drip line is still muddy. If dry 3 to 4 inches below ground level, repeat watering as described in previous paragraph. If it is muddy, do not water and wait a couple more days to recheck. Of course this may all change with much needed rainfall, so use the gauge of 3 to 4 inches below ground level till July 5th so we can help our peonies thrive for next year. Too much water, as you know, will rot out peony roots so be careful out there! 


We have color in the fields! One of our intersectional/Itoh hybrid field is in peak color. There you will see 15+ varieties in all their glory. Other fields include many varieties from early to late blooms. Yes the heat is the main contributing factor to peonies blooming quickly, but it is still a glorious sight to behold. Its hard to put a percentage figure on the amount of blooms due to our various micro-climates. Varieties in one field may be at their peak but in another field, they are still in bud stage. Thank the good Lord for creating micro-climates as you will see that when walking through our fields.

Early and early to mid bloom peonies are some of my favorite colors. Call them vibrant or effervescent or hot, they are spectacular in fields and of course in your gardens. Today will be the last time you can see these colors as they will not be here on June 11th and 12th.

Due to the high temperatures forecasted for later this afternoon, we will be closing at 4 PM. We have lots of shade around our home so please avail yourselves to that inbetween fields that are all in full sun. Remember my adage? More sun more blooms! Less sun less blooms. Well that is certainly true in our fields.

Looking forward to seeing you at our 2021 Swenson Gardens Peony Field Days!


Ok, so the term ‘presumed’ bloom times from my previous post, is now thrown out the window. The top three events that can affect peony bloom times are: 1) late frosts, 2) inclement weather and 3) high temperatures. Lets elaborate a bit on each but focus later on number 3.

For those of you who attended our 2020 Peony Field Days, you probably noticed less blooms and plants void of any blooms. This was caused by late frosts that froze out the buds. It was very noticeable on very early, early and early to late blooming peonies. The cold temperatures did not allow the buds to form thus eliminating some to most of the color. Mid to very late blooming peonies were not affected as much due to the fact that their buds were not developed yet at the times of freezing temperatures. The flip side though is that the following year after late frosts, peonies will set more stems and buds as their energy went into more root production. Go figure, in 2021, the peonies are amass with buds and blooms!

Inclement weather can be disastrous to say the least. In the past we have cancelled many Peony Field Days due to rain, wind and hail damage. I don’t see this happening the next couple of days so I’m thinking we are ok with inclement weather. In previous posts you will see pictures of our driveway being flooded out due to massive rain storms and way back when, straight line wind damage to one of our fields. The former owners of our farm experienced a massive flood in 1990 that required the use of a boat for 2-weeks in order to get to our home on the hill and 70th St SW. This is one of the reasons why we plant our peonies over many different fields in case flooding may occur. Thank the good Lord we have been spared from major damage including a tornado that traversed south of our home and damaged property SE of us on Labor Day 2020.

High temperatures? You betcha! Yes dear friends the next few days could also be termed inclement weather AND high temperatures. This will not harm peonies but the term ‘presumed’ bloom times is null in void. Meaning peony blooms will blow out (bloom quickly) as their way of saying, ‘I DO NOT LIKE HIGH TEMPERATURES’! Yes we have color now with some early, early to mid and mid blooms, but we are at the mercy of high temperatures which may see later peonies blooming as well. We’ve been blooming with very early varieties for the past 2-weeks. Lovely to say the least but they are done for this year.

Make sure to stay hydrated while walking our fields on June 4th and 5th. We do not have water available onsite so bring plenty with you. We will do our best to greet you in the peony fields but we also need breaks from the sun. Be safe in our peony fields as you enjoy Swenson Gardens 2021 Peony Field Days!



Greetings peony enthusiasts! We are pleased to announce our 2021 Swenson Gardens Peony Field Days. The dates are Friday’s and Saturday’s on June 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 from 9a to 5P. WE ARE NOT OPEN ON SUNDAY’S. We’ve added two more days to accommodate additional bloom times. Each week, please check back on our blog for bloom updates. Right now in the fields, the very early varieties are starting to bloom. Lil’ Sweetie, Little Red Gem and Huthii are starting to show color so if the weather holds and not besieged with 90F temperatures, the early varieties should be at their peak on June 4th and 5th. Then as the presumed bloom season progresses, mid varieties the 11th and 12th and late varieties 18th and 19th. Again, ‘presumed’ bloom times. A lot can change in a week so check back on our blog weekly for bloom updates.

For those of you who have never attended our Peony Field Days, this is a chance to walk through our production fields for a hands on, or should I say hands off, experience on seeing and yes, smelling most of the peonies we have available for sale in 2021. Parking is available right off 70th St SW as you enter our property and yes multiple portable biffs are onsite. Our address is 10958 70th St SW, Howard Lake, MN. Dates are contingent on weather conditions so we will post cancellations accordingly based on inclement weather.

As you can see on our online store, many varieties are already sold out. If you are waiting to see your favorites and order during Peony Field Days, we would highly suggest placing your online orders now as many more will be sold out before and during Peony Field Days. Orders will not be taken onsite so ordering online is the only way to order for either shipping your peony roots in the fall or picking them up here in the fall.

Reservations are not required and we do not charge admittance to Peony Field Days. We want our property to be a blessing to all and ask that you use common sense and courtesy when safely traversing our property. Yes for those of you who are able, you will be doing a lot of walking. For those of you who have special needs, we do have some areas accessible for wheelchairs. Please check in with the attendants at the parking areas for more directions.

For insurance purposes, here are the fine print details in order to allow our property to be open to the public during Peony Field Days. Swenson Gardens, LLC and Keith and Becky Swenson, ‘property owners’, will not be held liable for any theft, damages, injuries, illnesses, infections and death on our property located at 10958 70th St SW, Howard Lake, MN 55349 during Peony Field Days. You are entering our property at your own risk with no implied help and actions that are required by said ‘property owners’. Thus by you accepting and agreeing to our onsite policies, we the ‘property owners’, will be held harmless for any implied and actual events that may occur during Peony Field Days. If you do not agree to the aforementioned, please visit us online at SwensonGardens.com.

Ok now that we are through the required fine print in order to have Peony Field Days continue for another year, yes we are pet friendly as long as both the owner and pet are on a leash and cleaned up after their business is done. Please do not bring pets into the actual peony fields. The fertilizer production team ‘FPT’ may be viewable in their pasture however stay clear of the electric fences and stay outside of their pasture. Can you say Purple Martins? Yes our multiple martin houses are full of these acrobatic wonders of the sky so please give their homes some space. Speaking of space, numbers of you took advantage of picnics during your visit here so please avail yourself to any areas south of our pole barns. North of our pole barns are not open for admittance. For those of you with strollers, please do not use them in the peony fields. Leave at end of rows and carry your children

Bring your cameras, phones and tablets for photography opportunities. Boots if rain and oh yes, bug spray (administered in the parking lot and not anywhere else before entering the fields) and sunscreen if it will hopefully be, a sunny day. Varieties will be marked in the fields that we have for sale this year. Field maps are available in the white tent north of the parking lots. Please come to to the white tent upon arrival for more information.

Swenson Gardens Peony Field Days is soon upon us and we can’t wait to see you in our peony fields!


Mulch removal alert on your peonies in USDA Growing Zones 2 to 4! If tulips are about 6 to 8 inches high in your gardens or neighbors gardens, its time to remove 1/2 of your mulch and the other 1/2 in a week or so. Here on our peony farm, which is USDA Growing Zone 4a, all our mulch is off our peonies. It is imperative that your remove your mulch from newly planted peonies otherwise the roots will rot out due to the soil not being able to dry out. Every year we receive communications from a handful of customers that say ‘our peony never came up’. The first question we ask them is ‘did you remove the mulch from your newly planted peonies last spring’? ‘NO’

If you are a local customer, with the rains that we’ve been receiving over the past couple of days, might we suggest you remove ALL your mulch…now! This also may affect other areas too so be vigilant in removing your mulch now based on the rain you may be experiencing.

Oh the joy of spring! The lovely scent of hyacinths are permeating from one of our beds. Can’t wait for the scents of peonies to permeate the air around our beds and fields!


Greetings dear peony friends and happy spring! The spring rains have been wonderful as of late with much needed moisture adding to the excitement of the peony soldiers appearing in the next few weeks. All of the snowbanks and snow drifts are gone leaving a blanket of greyish brown hues on the fields. Activity with all the bird migrations has been an amazing display of colors and sounds. Today a flock of Northern Terns were making their way north, sand hill cranes squawking in our south fields, robins frolicking around the crab trees looking for insects and of course wild turkeys in our north fields strutting their fans trying to attract that special hen.

Don’t forget our fertilizer production team either. Elvis Lee, continues to be the proud papa as two new members have been born in the last week. Yesterday Becky was checking on a newly born heifer and there was Elvis helping mommy clean up a newly born calf. What a father! Last night he was in the barn next to the two new calves and mommies as proud as can be. We just love our Dexter cattle as they are so protective of each other.

So how have us mere humans been? Well better as of the last couple of days. On 3/6, I traveled to my first ER visit with shortness of breath and a nasty cough. After a few tests and xray, the diagnosis was made that I have pneumonia. A Covid test was administered with results testing positive on 3/9. Not to be outdone on 3/6, Becky then took me back to ER on 3/9 as my breathing was very labored and shallow. The diagnosis was then changed to Covid pneumonia. Antibiotics and steroids were now part of my daily routine. Well on 3/14, I was now going into full asthma attacks so back to the ER early that morning. Very scary times when you can’t breath and not able to stop coughing. They admitted me for observation and was able to get my breathing under control by the next afternoon. So now my diagnosis was upgraded to Covid pneumonia with advanced asthma attacks. Wow am I special or what? Antibiotics, steroids, codeine and albuterol nebulizers have been the norm every four hours since then. Thank the great Lord that on 3/22 my breathing is ok and I am now able to walk within the main floor of our home. Please pray for Becky and I as the long term diagnosis is good for no major lung damage but per our follow up Dr appointment yesterday, it could be at least a two month recovery. So how is Becky? She too came down with Covid last week but thankfully she was spared from any respiratory issues and was mainly fatigued and a head cold.

We are trying our best to keep up with all your inquiries and questions but please be patient with us as we negotiate a very trying time of this season. Thankfully we don’t need to be in the fields for a couple of months, my rotator cuff surgery on 11/19 now has more time to heal and our church family has been providing us with wonderful meals and encouragement as we continue to heal. For those of you who have and are dealing with the effects of Covid, our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to you, your family and friends. May God’s peace prevail during these trying times. We love you all and are so thankful for you being a part of our Swenson Gardens peony family!