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Changes for 2016 - 2020

We're making long-term improvements to the Peony Garden and the adjacent Laurel Ridge Trail. The overall Rejuvenation Plan sets the framework - and the work is scheduled year-by-year so that we're ready to host our Centennial in June, 2022. There's much to do!

Noteworthy Changes for the 2016 Season

4 'Empty Beds' for themed-planting this Fall

This Fall we will plan the four empty beds: numbers 14, 17, 20 and 23 on the peony photo maps. During this growing season, any root fragments that sprout will be removed, and the beds replanted and interpretive signage developed this Fall. The beds will be organized by themes.

  • Important French selections  Here will be some of the most famous French peonies that inspired or represent the peony passion of the Belle Epoque (ca. 1871-1914).  [Bed 14]
  • Peony floral forms (two beds)  We'll show the named step-by-step progression from Single to Double. [Bed 17]

  • Important herbaceous species and their hybrids made by American and Canadian breeders. The North American peony breeders were pushing for earlier bloom, stronger stems, and bolder flowers - which led them breeding programs using several herbaceous species. [Beds 20 and 23]

In addition, the Itoh and intersectional hybrids are being established in the new beds on the slope next to the stone stairway.

Chinese herbaceous peonies should bloom well !

The historic Chinese herbaceous peonies in Bed 11, procurred with the assistance of colleagues with the Luoyang International Peony Garden, should bloom well as they mature. Check them out!

Chinese and Japanese tree peonies: blooming this May?

The historic Chinese and Japanese tree peonies planted above the rock wall near Beds 8-14 should have their first signficant bloom this May. 

Significant progress in the Rejuvenation Plan in Laurel Ridge

This past year we've planted many Asian-themed shrubs and small trees as part of our Rejuvenation Plan. Some are caged to project them from the deer during their establishment phase. All the new plantings reflect the generous support of the Ann Arbor Branch of the Women's National Farm and Garden Association.


Our Love of Heirloom Annuals

As we rearrange the peony garden we're filling some of its empty spaces with heirloom annuals to increase visual interest and add summer color after the peonies have finished blooming.

All of the heirloom annual varieties have been grown in flower gardens since the 1800s. Modern cultivars of these plants have been bred for fashionable characteristics in flower color, form, and height. While modern cultivars are more common in flower gardens today, the historic cultivars were chosen for our Peony Garden because they reflect the era of the peonies. Indeed, similar heirloom annuals and peonies may have been grown together in flower gardens by generations past.

The drought-tolerant heirloom annuals in the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden were chosen specifically for their lack of appeal to deer, groundhogs, and rabbits - all of which pass through the Peony Garden without much impact (other than nibbling the turf paths). Of course, peonies, too, are highly un-desired by these grazing animals.

Heirloom Annuals in the Peony Garden

Centaurea cyanus – Bachelor’s Button
Cleome hassleriana – Spider Flower
Portulaca grandiflora – Moss Rose
Salvia coccinea – Scarlet Salvia

What is an Heirloom Plant?

An heirloom plant is an open-pollinated cultivated variety (cultivar) that has been grown for many years and is often handed down through families. (Open-pollinated plants are pollinated by birds, insects, wind, and other natural mechanisms.) The commonly accepted cut off date for heirloom plants in the USA is 1951, just after World War II, when seed companies and growers began widespread use of complex, artifically-produced hybrid seed. The offspring of open-pollinated cultivars retain the parent plant’s traits even when the flower is pollinated naturally. There are many motivations to grow heirloom plants including maintaining genetic diversity, reintroducing formerly well-known varieties, growing rare plants, expanding beyond modern hybrid varieties, and historic interest.