Peonies in Bloom -- Nichols Arboretum

by kajohu

This year we hit the peak of the peony bloom at Nichols Arboretum, part of The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The Peony Garden, in the Nichols Arboretum of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, is a beautiful place to visit when the peonies are in full bloom in the late spring.

This garden has the largest collection of antique and heirloom peonies in North America, and each year it puts on a stunning display of these showy flowers.

See photos of some of these beautiful, showy plants during their peak bloom.

Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden

Ann Arbor, Michigan

One of our favorite outings in late spring is to visit the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when the peonies are in full bloom.   We visited on June 7 last year (2011) when I took these photos, during the peak bloom, and were treated to a splendid display of hundreds of peony plants in shades of white, pale pinks, brilliant pinks and fuschias, and dark, dark reds.  

The Peony Garden in Nichols Arboretum has the largest collection of antique and heirloom peonies in North America, with over 270 historic cultivated varieties.  There are 27 peony beds, with up to 30 plants per bed.  

Peonies start blooming in the Arboretum sometime in mid-May, and peak in early-mid June depending on the weather.  The Peony Garden, along with the rest of Nichols Arboretum, is open to the public and free for visiting every day of the year from sunrise to sunset.  

Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden
Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden

Peony Garden in Nichols Arboretum Since 1927

The Peony Garden was donated to the Nichols Arboretum, of The University of Michigan, in 1922 by Dr. W.E. Upjohn, of Upjohn Pharmaceuticals (now a part of Pfizer), and opened to the public in 1927.

Originally the peonies were planted in such a way that earlier blooming varieties were nearer the entrance of the garden, and later blooming varieties further away, so there'd be a "wave" of blooms throughout the season from mid-May through mid-June.  Since many of the peony plants have been replaced or relocated, this progression has been minimized, although we can still see it in part.  

Still, a number of the peony plants are thriving in their original location, 90 years later.

Home to Historic Varieties of Peonies

Peonies are native to China and other parts of Asia with cool winter climates.  The peonies that are represented in the Arboretum are those that were introduced to North America and Europe in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century.  There was great interest in developing different varieties of peonies during this time until the World War II era, then an upswing in interest again in the 1980s.

Different Shades of Peony Blooms

Delicate colors
Delicate colors
Peek-a-Boo in the Peonies (there's my husband)
Peek-a-Boo in the Peonies (there's my...
A Variety of Hues
A Variety of Hues
Brilliant Colors
Brilliant Colors

Varieties in Color, Scent, Flower Type

Peony colors range from white to light pink or blush, then the darker pinks and reds (as shown in the photos above). More modern breeding programs have produced other colors such as coral and yellow, but the Peony Garden includes only the more traditional colors.    I seem to remember seeing a few of the coral shade blooms in previous years, but not this year.     I'm guessing they were removed to keep the garden colors more in line with the historical shades.

Some of the flowers have a very strong fragrance, while others have a very delicate scent, or none at all.

Peony flower types include single-style flowers (such as the pink peonies, below) and the more familiar double-style flowers (such as the white ones below), and a gradation of styles in between.

The majority of peonies at Nichols Arboretum are double peonies, although my favorites are often the single-type flowers, probably because they are less common.

Pink Single Style Peony Flowers
Pink Single Style Peony Flowers
White Double Style Peony Flowers
White Double Style Peony Flowers

Come Visit the Peony Garden and Nichols Arboretum!

Ann Arbor, Michigan

If you love peonies, plan to visit the Peony Garden during late May or early June.   You'll want to explore other parts of the Arboretum as well.

Nichols Arboretum is near the Central Campus of The University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Beside the Peony Garden, the Arboretum is also home to a variety of different natural areas, including:

  • Heathdale -- collections of Appalachian plants including rhododendrons and mountain laurels.
  • River Landing -- canoe, hike, fish, birdwatch along the Huron River.   
  • School Girls' Glen -- native wildflowers along this short, steep trail.
  • Alex Dow Field -- a remnant of a prairie environment.
  • And....Fairy Woods & Troll Hollow...just beyond the Peony Gardens.
Fairy Woods & Troll Hollow
Fairy Woods & Troll Hollow
A fairy hut?
A fairy hut?

Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Updated: 01/19/2014, kajohu
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kajohu on 01/28/2013

Thanks, brl. I enjoyed taking the photos and then doing the research on the place :-)

kajohu on 01/28/2013

Hi Dustytoes -- I also like the single style peonies. They almost look like another species of flowers with their simpler shapes.

dustytoes on 01/28/2013

I don't know if I've ever seen the single style flower. It's very pretty, and I do love peonies.

kajohu on 01/27/2013

Thanks, 2uesday, for your comment. These peony beds are really spectacular, aren't they? We have about 6 plants lining our driveway, but they're never as full-looking as the peony gardens shown here.

ForestBear on 08/27/2011

Wonderful pictures. I enjoyed my visit. Thank you for sharing

howcurecancer on 07/03/2011

The photos are fantastic. I like flowers, my favorite is freesia.

ohcaroline on 06/16/2011

My dad grew beautiful peonies at home where I grew up. They are a favorite of mine...I just wish they would grow in Florida. :( Your photos are fabulous!

Jewelsofawe on 06/16/2011

Lovely flowers! I love flowers of all kinds!

kimbesa on 06/12/2011

Love peonies. I'll have to visit one day...thanks!

bev-owens on 06/12/2011

What a lovely article about Peonies! I have always loved them because my Grandmother had such beautiful bushes in her front yard.

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