On a brilliant summer’s day we took a drive west of the Twin Cities to Swenson Gardens in Howard Lake, Minnesota.  Their gardens were open for their annual Peony Field Days, and the timing was perfect.  With warmer temperatures and bright sunshine many of the peonies had come into full bloom.  It was a chance to wander and dream and plan for places in our own garden for more of these lovely plants.  I especially liked these America peonies –  their bright red was a wonderful contract to the green foliage and the blue sky with its puffy clouds.

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red-apples-on-a-blue-sky-day-13959_staatsYesterday was the epitome of an early fall day – cloudy and cool in the morning, but clearing skies and warm sun.  We took advantage of the day and left the Cities early, heading west to Howard Lake, Minnesota.  Our first stop was Swenson Gardens, the essential place for peonies.  We had visited there a year ago, but this time we were getting advice on dividing and planting peonies.  Keith and Becky offered they personal help and guidance and we left with plenty of information and three new peony plants for our home garden.  As the sun was breaking through the clouds, we wandered south a few miles to Carlson’s Orchard.  The bakery and restaurant were doing a bustling business, and a wait was required but certainly worth every minute.  We had a delicious lunch, followed by fresh apple pie a la mode.  The orchard was filled with apples, and the beautiful red Haralsons stood out against the blue and white sky and green of the trees and grass.  One more stop at a winery for some tasting and a glass of wine in the sun made for a full and relaxing day.

White and pink peonies 13429_StaatsWith a burst of color, the peonies have come into bloom.  Their fragrance is brought to full fruition by the breeze that blows through the bushes, carrying the scent across the yard.  And when I’ve brought the bouquets into the house, I can catch the fragrance as I walk from room to room.  Perhaps it’s because they are short-lived that I look forward to their bloom each year.  Or perhaps it’s because they remind me of my childhood – my parents’ love of peonies and the tradition of taking them to my relatives’ grave sites on Memorial Day.  I’m especially thankful that these pink peonies are from the plants that were my parents’.

Chapel and peonies_StaatsA day of celebration, a day of love, filled with spirits, memories, honor, remembrance, a nod to the past, and a step to the future.  A chapel designed by my father, bouquets of peonies to honor my mother, an intimate gathering of family and friends – a celebration to remember!

Peonies in a row Staats_9851If you travel west out of the Twin Cities on Highway 12 you quickly leave the urban life behind for farm fields and open spaces.  We did just that yesterday morning – our destination was Swenson Gardens near Howard Lake.  Celebrating Peony Days at Swenson’s was a true delight – to sight and smell alike.  With fields of peonies in bloom, and a view of the horizon all around, we enjoyed learning about all the different varieties of peonies in so many colors that I’d never seen or known about.  It was a wonderful place to explore and immerse yourself in the sights and smells of late spring.

The time of peonies 62357This weekend has been Spring Break for the many photo clubs of the Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Twin Cities area.  That means workshops and seminars, and a celebration of all things related to photography.  Part of that is an InterClub competition amongst the Twin Cities photographers.  Submissions are made in the categories of photographic prints or digital images.  As a member of the Minneapolis Photographic Society I chose to submit monochrome and color prints.  The competition is inspiring, creative, and impressive with its variety and themes and the amazing images that are submitted.  I was honored to have my print “The time of peonies” selected as the first place color print of the year.  I love this image for its “painterly” feel, its classic look, and the subject matter of peonies, which are dear to my heart.  I was inspired years ago by another photographer from the Tacoma area, Freda Horn, who brought her painting background to her floral photographs; her images became much more than a flower photograph.  That was my intent with this photo and print, and I’d like to think that I made Freda proud.

Pink peonies 1975_StaatsOur summer has finally arrived, and with it the peonies have burst into bloom.  I’m fortunate to have three peonies in the yard; one white one that was purchased here in Minnesota and is known to be hardy for our cold winters, and two pink peonies that I transplanted from my parents’ home in Kansas.  It took those two plants a couple of years to establish themselves, but they appear to be thriving now.  A week ago we had a huge wind and rain storm that moved through, causing major damage to trees, fences, and plants.  I was worried that the peonies, which has been pummeled by the storm, would not bloom.  But they have burst forth with the brightest of colors, and the best scent around.  Just having them in the house or seeing them in the yard brings a smile to my face and an acknowledgment that summer has arrived.