Want to feel like an amazing gardener without doing much work? Grow peonies. That’s the advice I received from Becky Swenson when I visited her family’s beautiful peony farm this summer in Howard Lake, Minnesota.
Swenson Gardens is the largest organic peony grower in the world, with over 15,000 plants. Becky and her husband Keith sell peony root cuttings through their website and ship them all over the globe to eager gardeners every fall. But for two weekends each June, they invite visitors to stop and smell the flowers (literally) during their annual Field Days. That’s how I found myself chatting with Becky about her favorite blooms and which peonies I might like in my own yard.
With over 250 varieties to pick from, I was having trouble picking out just three. Thankfully they’ve organized their plants on this helpful chart that notes plant size, color and other attributes. For a casual gardener like me, Becky recommended that I look for peonies that don’t require staking to stay upright, have fragrant blooms, make great cut flowers and, once blooms are gone, the foliage is a tidy landscape plant. That narrowed my options to a mere 25 peony varieties.
If you live in a location where the annual lowest temperature is between -50 and 15 degrees Farenheit, you can grow these impressive flowers. The Swensons wisely provide peony growing tips based on your USDA plant hardiness zone, which I’ll be reading closely after I place my order. I’m leaning toward Bess Bockstoce, Coral Sunset and Krinkled White. I had better decide soon–the last day for Midwest orders is August 22nd and if you live on the coasts, September 19th.
Photos by Room & Board
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