“Whenever you think of Minnesota, you think of cold winters, you think of water, you think of peonies, you think of lilacs, and you think of mosquitoes – not necessarily in that order!”” according to Laverne and Barb Dunsmore.
The Dunsmore’s passion for peonies began in the early 1980s with the purchase of two plants. Since then they have expanded their collection to include several hundred varieties now covering eight acres among the gently rolling hills just outside of Delano.
“The peony was the backbone of the old-fashioned garden,”” Laverne says. “Maybe that’s why people are so mesmerized by it. It has endurance and dependability you rarely find in any other plant. The most emotional thing about peonies that attracts me to them is they’re the only plants I can name that transcend multiple generations. I have visitors who point to a particular plant and say, ‘I remember that on my grandmother’s farm,” and they get tears in their eyes. Peonies are one plant with so much nostalgia that they will remain part of a family for generations to come.””
Laverne not only grows peonies, but has also been hybridizing and selecting for strong stems, high bud count and fragrance. Laverne says. “I have advanced selections in my fields that I’ve been observing for about 20 years to see if they are worthy of introducing, it does no good to release a new variety if it is not better than what already exists.””
Peonies Thrive in Minnesota
Long cold winters followed by cool springs and deep rich soils make Minnesota one of the best places in the world to grow peonies. They like full sun and need 3-4 foot spacing between plants. In the proper site, they thrive best if neglected without moving or dividing them and can last for decades. Barbara says, “It’s an old-fashioned, comforting flower that is really the backbone of the old-fashioned garden.”
For more information on Countryside Gardens Peony Farm.