Nichols Arboretum’s Peony Garden to Bloom Soon

The peonies at the Nichols Arboretum are expected to bloom this year around the last week of May and the first week of June according to experts at the Arb.

“Typically we see peak bloom in the last week of May through early June,” Kerry Sprague, M.A., marketing and communications manager at Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (MBGNA) said. “This is all weather-dependent though – there is no rushing or slowing down nature – they bloom exactly when they mean to.”

The span of the window that the peonies are blooming also depends on certain variables.

“The blooming window for peonies, especially during peak bloom when most varieties flower, typically spans around 2 to 3 weeks,” Sprague said. “However, this timeframe can be influenced by various factors such as hot weather, rain, or wind, which may cause petals to fall prematurely. While some early varieties may already be in bloom, the peak of the display usually occurs within this relatively short period, making it all the more precious to catch them at their fullest and most vibrant.”

Bright flower in bloom
Photo by Mary Genson.

There are also very rare peonies and a wide range of beautiful colors coexisting peacefully, including red, purple, yellow, violet, pink and white of all shades and hues.

“One of our rarest peonies is ‘Silvia Saunders’,” said David Michener, curator of Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. “We’re one of the few gardens in the world to have her. ‘Silvia Saunders’ is simple — like a rose flower — but all the buds on a stem bloom almost at once, making it a bouquet with one cut. Almost half our peonies are very rare — we have not found them in other peony gardens in North America. Each has a story — so come and find one you enjoy, but don’t be surprised if they are very challenging to find anywhere for purchase.”

According to those interviewed, they welcome 500,000 visitors each year from all over America and the world to MBGNA, with tens of thousands being dedicated to spring-time peony visitors.

RELATED: Exploring Toledo’s Reimagined Waterfront

Those interviewed also added that the W.E. Upjohn Peony Garden at the Nichols Arboretum is an enchanting destination for a wide array of visitors. Here are some factors that contribute to the public attraction:

  • Spectacular Bloom Season: The garden’s peak blooming period, typically from late May to early June, offers a stunning visual display when nearly 800 peony plants flourish simulataneously.
  • Historical Significance: As one of the leading collections of heirloom peonies in North America, the garden has a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1922.
  • Variety of Peonies: With 350 heritage varieties, the garden is a botanist’s and horticulturist’s treasure. It serves as a living museum where visitors can see and compare many different types of peonies in one place.
  • Educational Opportunities: The garden provides an array of learning experiences about botany, horticulture and the history of gardening. It is a place where students, researchers and the general public can engage with an important plant collection.
  • Photography and Art: It is a popular spot for photographers and artists drawn to the beauty of the flowers. The array of colors and the sheer volume of blooms make for exquisite natural subjects.
  • A Nature Respite: The garden offers a peaceful retreat for visitors to enjoy the tranquility and beauty of nature within the bustling city of Ann Arbor.
  • Free Admission: The garden is accessible without an entry fee, making it an inviting option for individuals and families looking for cost-effective leisure activities.

Many of the flowers also have a long and distinguished history.

Flowers in bloom
The peony garden attracts many visitors every year. Photo by Mary Genson.

“Since most of our peonies are ‘historic’ — introduced before 1950, and most are from the late 1800s to 1930s when fragrance was valued in breeding new peonies, the garden as a whole is delightful in the morning,” said Michener. “Indeed, some peonies are almost ‘heady’ when they first open. By late morning the perfume has burned off in the sunlight, so if fragrances as well as colors are important to you, earlier in the day is when these both are at their peak.”

The Nichols Arboretum and the W.E. Upjohn Peony Garden within it, as well as the Matthaei Botanical Gardens, are both part of the University of Michigan and are managed by the same organization “Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum,” but they are at different locations.

Although physically separate, both gardens operate under the same mission and vision focused on fostering social and ecological resilience, advancing equity and justice, promoting sustainability and conservation and serving as educational resources. The Peony Garden contributes to this shared mission by serving as a living collection that supports biodiversity and offers educational opportunities.

+ posts

Donna Marie Iadipaolo is a writer, journalist, and State of Michigan certified teacher, since 1990. She has written for national publications like The Village Voice, Ear Magazine of New Music, Insurance & Technology, and TheStreet.
She is now writing locally for many publications, including Current Magazine, Ann Arbor Family, and the Ann Arbor Independent. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she graduated with an honors bachelor’s degree and three teacher certificate majors: mathematics, social sciences, English. She also earned three graduate degrees in Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Education Specialist Degree.