Topics & Speakers

Key Note

Swenson Gardens - 2019 Wright County Farm Family of the Year

Becky Swenson, along with her husband Keith, are the owners of Swenson Gardens in Howard Lake, Minnesota. where they nurture thousands of peony plants in hundreds of different varieties.

Two years ago they released their first new peony varieties to the market and are now considered the largest hybridizer in the world. Chemical-free, sustainable farming practices has been a mainstay of their business from the beginning. In 2019 the Swensons were recognized as the Farm Family of the Year for Wright County.

Because peonies provide classic beauty in a garden or vase, they are a favorite of novice and expert gardeners alike. The Top 10 peony questions will be answered, and you will get a sneak peek into the next generation of these beautiful plants -- be prepared to think beyond pink, red, and white!

Becky Swenson is the co-owner of Swenson Gardens, a peony farm located in Howard Lake, Minnesota, where she and family raise over 12,000 plants and more than 1,000 different varieties. They specialize in varieties that don’t flop over and colors not typically found in garden centers.

Swenson Gardens is considered the world’s largest chemical-free peony farm and ships thousands of bare-root peonies to gardeners across the country every fall. They are also the world’s largest hybridizer of new peony varieties. When she is not working outside, Becky enjoys photography, hiking, and discovering really great coffee shops.

Best Performing Tomatoes

Marty Bergland

Learn what you need to know and do to grow the best performing tomatoes.

As one of our most consumed garden foods, tomatoes come in numerous varieties, tastes, and uses. Topics will include selecting, growing, harvesting, and using the wide range of tomatoes available to us. Growing conditions, raised beds, and containers will be covered.

Marty is a lifelong gardener and has developed numerous gardening related classes as a former Master Gardener (18 years).

She helped the Minnesota State Horticultural Society (MSHS) develop programs and has written several publications. Marty’s current work includes greenhouse growing in the spring and year-round employment with a local honey farm where she makes beeswax candles and other honey related products.

Designing a Cutting Garden

Reba Berge

Imagine a never ending supply of beautiful flowers for your home, bouquets and arrangements to give to friends. Come learn the cultivars and techniques that guarantee a successful cutting garden. Find out the tricks to post harvest care that will keep your arrangements fresh for 7-10 days.

Reba is the owner of A Precious Petals Florist, located in West St. Paul, MN. She has a passion for the floral community and loves to dedicate her time and energy to learning, teaching, and sharing. She began her floral career in North Dakota as a ride-along delivery assistant at the young age of 15 and has since become an entrepreneur and floral designer with an eagerness to develop new talents at every opportunity. She studied and honed her design skills through classes at Koehler & Dramm’s Institute of Floristry and is now an instructor there. She teaches design classes at the Minnesota Arboretum, MAAE (Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators), Tri-Distirict Community Classes, Washington County Horticulture Society classes, and many more. She is also a member of the Dakota County Chamber of Commerce. When Reba is not teaching or designing, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She also enjoys camping, reading, and cooking!

New and Underused Perennials

Julie Schroer and Jodie Ramsay

Julie and Jodie are both biology professors and enjoy teaching in the non-gardening season. Both present gardening classes and several horticulture events each year. They love biology, teaching and everything plants!

Julie Schroer - Avid plant lover, manager of Jean's Greenhouse and biology instructor at Northern State University.

Jodie Ramsay - Biology professor at Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD. Jodie keeps her enthusiasm contained.


Backyard Chickens

JoAnn Weaver

Are you interested in simple pleasures? Do you want to know more about where your food is coming from?

Backyard chickens may be just the thing for you. This presentation offers basic information on all you need to know on how to get started with chicken keeping.

JoAnn Weaver, a graduate of the University of Nebraska, has a degree in education and is a retired registered nurse. She has been a UMN Extension Master Gardener in Crow Wing County since 2006. She served several terms as an elected official for a local municipality, is active on numerous boards and committees, and participates in a number of community organizations. She’s spent a lifetime learning how to grow, cook, and preserve vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers from the family kitchen garden. In addition, she’s a hobby beekeeper and keeps a small flock of chickens.

Pollinator Gardening

Marty Bergland

Join us to learn about pollinators such as bees and butterflies and how they contribute to our food supply.

With a focus on monarch butterflies and honey bees, topics will include their life cycles and interactions with plants as well as their needs for continuing survival. To help our friends the pollinators, a list of plants will be provided.

Honey samples will also be provided.

Marty is a lifelong gardener and has developed numerous gardening related classes as a former Master Gardener (18 years).

She helped the Minnesota State Horticultural Society (MSHS) develop programs and has written several publications. Marty’s current work includes greenhouse growing in the spring and year-round employment with a local honey farm where she makes beeswax candles and other honey related products.

Spring Birds In Minnesota

Jim Gilbert

Birds are interesting, and important. Find out how many species are on Earth, in Minnesota, and how many nest here. Jim will include tips on attracting birds to your yard - including some of his notes on feeding stations, water and plantings. Bird migration is underway - learn where some of the well-known species spend the winter, and when they return

Jim Gilbert is a retired naturalist and teacher from Hopkins Schools and Gustavus Adolphus College. For 42 years he was heard doing Nature Notes on WCCO Radio. He is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota and continues to write for the Star Tribune and Sun Patriot newspapers. Jim and his network of observers across Minnesota and western Wisconsin keep track of phenology events (nature’s happenings) throughout the year, and he has provided phenology information for the Minnesota Weather Guides since 1977. Sandy and Jim live on the shore of Lake Waconia; they have three grown sons and are busy grandparents.

Color Through the Seasons

Julie Schroer and Jodie Ramsay

You can have a garden filled with bloom from early spring to late in the fall. This class teaches design analysis, points out specific cultivars, and outlines growing techniques to inspire a new space or renew an existing garden.

Julie and Jodie are both biology professors and enjoy teaching in the non-gardening season. Both present gardening classes and several horticulture events each year. They love biology, teaching and everything plants!

Julie Schroer - Avid plant lover, manager of Jean's Greenhouse and biology instructor at Northern State University.

Jodie Ramsay - Biology professor at Northern State University, Aberdeen, SD. Jodie keeps her enthusiasm contained.

Garden Sheds

JoAnn Weaver

Have you ever wished for a small private space where, if only for a few minutes, you could find an escape from the daily routine? Would a neat and tidy spot to store garden tools and equipment be just the ticket? Answering “yes” to either question could mean that you need a garden shed! This presentation offers a variety of ideas for creating a shed that meets your requirements.

JoAnn Weaver, a graduate of the University of Nebraska, has a degree in education and is a retired registered nurse. She has been a UMN Extension Master Gardener in Crow Wing County since 2006. She served several terms as an elected official for a local municipality, is active on numerous boards and committees, and participates in a number of community organizations. She’s spent a lifetime learning how to grow, cook, and preserve vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers from the family kitchen garden. In addition, she’s a hobby beekeeper and keeps a small flock of chickens.

Home Garden Food Preservation

Jamie Stang

Learn the safest and most current methods for home canning, freezing, and pickling. Information on selecting reliable researched-based resources will also be highlighted. Whether you are new to food preservation or have been preserving for years, this session is for you!

Jamie is currently a professor at the University of Minnesota, where she specializes in maternal-fetal health and obesity prevention. Jamie is starting her first year of phased retirement, and is looking forward to having more time each year to devote to volunteer experiences including master gardening programs.

Kokedama Workshop

Kay Strait

Kokedama is a centuries-old form of Japanese bonsai, and it's making a comeback. In this workshop you will create you own kokedama with assistance from Wright County Master Gardeners.

If you are not sure what kokedama is, a search of the internet will provide photos and insight into this fun garden art form.

Kay’s green thumb interest was inspired after taking a college horticulture class. Nurturing house plants and creating outdoor gardens became her passion. As a Master Gardener for six years, a former potter and a BA in Design, it was a natural draw to teach about her first love – growing plants and incorporating design. Kay resides in Buffalo and continues to turn her yard into gardens.


Spring Birds in Minnesota

Jim Gilbert

Birds are interesting, and important. Find out how many species are on Earth, in Minnesota, and how many nest here. Jim will include tips on attracting birds to your yard - including some of his notes on feeding stations, water and plantings. Bird migration is underway - learn where some of the well-known species spend the winter, and when they return

Jim Gilbert is a retired naturalist and teacher from Hopkins Schools and Gustavus Adolphus College. For 42 years he was heard doing Nature Notes on WCCO Radio. He is the author of five books on nature in Minnesota and continues to write for the Star Tribune and Sun Patriot newspapers. Jim and his network of observers across Minnesota and western Wisconsin keep track of phenology events (nature’s happenings) throughout the year, and he has provided phenology information for the Minnesota Weather Guides since 1977. Sandy and Jim live on the shore of Lake Waconia; they have three grown sons and are busy grandparents.

Veggies for All

Rita McCooley

One of the seven core priorities of the Master Gardener Volunteer program is to increase access to local food. "Vegetables for Everyone" will encourage you to try growing vegetables regardless of location. We will cover why you should consider growing vegetables and what to keep in mind when you start a vegetable garden. We will look at the winning vegetables trialed by Master Gardener volunteers across the state for the past 30 years and analyze seed packet information. We will also discuss the many joys of growing vegetables.

My love of gardening started as a very young child. Both my father and grandmother were avid gardeners. My first gardening memory is of my grandmother telling me to "put your hands behind your back" as I was admiring her flower garden. I could hardly restrain myself as the irises were so pretty. My dad loved his vegetable garden and most of my gardening time is spent in the vegetable garden. There is nothing giving me more self satisfaction than serving fresh vegetables at our meals. I also like to grow pumpkins to give to my granddaughter and to the children in the neighborhood. The kids love them all: big ones, little ones, different shapes and sizes. We live in the country so there is always room to start another garden! I also love to plant annuals. The bright colors are so cheerful. I became a master gardener to share what knowledge I have about gardening with others who seek more knowledge about their gardens. I always assure novice gardeners that we all started from the same spot and have learned over and over by our mistakes. There is always another gardening season.