The story of Swenson Gardens began with a passion for peonies. Wright County award-winning farmers Becky and Keith Swenson inherited their fondness for the flower from grandparents. When the couple bought their first house in Delano in the ‘90s, they agreed that peonies should be planted in the front garden but were looking for something beyond the classic pink or red variety.
Their search for unusually-colored peonies led them to Roger Anderson, who was known around the world as a prolific peony hybridizer. He not only sold them purple peonies for their front garden, but he later became their mentor as the Swensons began to think about starting their own business, which eventually led to the birth of Swenson Gardens.
After studying under Anderson, the Swensons began to hybridize peonies for commercial sale. Hybridization is the process of breeding two different types of plants or animals together to create a new variety. Becky says it’s “part art, part science.”
She goes on to explain that while they still sell the classics, “our focus is new varieties; that’s what really sets us apart. We’re looking for something really striking,” she says. “It can take as long as 10 years.”