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New Peony Book Available

Peony Garden on May 6, 2020
Peony Garden on May 6, 2020

Passion for Peonies is a new book about peonies and the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden by Bob Grese and David Michener, the director and curator, respectively, of Matthaei-Nichols. Renowned horticulturists and peony aficionados contribute to the book, including Scott Kunst of Old House Gardens, Peggy Cornett of Monticello, and Alice Harding. The book takes a deep dive into the cultural, social, and historical context of one of our most beloved flowers.

The book is available for purchase from the University of Michigan Press.

While we can't stop the peony garden from flowering, because of the covid pandemic the peony garden bloom celebration will not take place this year. We are asking everyone to not visit the garden. Instead, scroll down for bloom updates of the garden from years past or visit the Matthaei-Nichols website and social media for photos and more (Instagram: matthaeinichols; Facebook Mathaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Aboretum).


Peony Garden Bloom Updates for Spring 2019

Bloom season estimate in any given year is a staff best guess and is updated as the season progresses.

June 26, 2019: The Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden bloom season is almost over. This year the garden is nearly a week later than 2018. Today there are a few late-bloomers still looking great, like peony 'Qing Wen,' and others. 




June 23, 2019: The Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden bloom season is coming to a close. There are a few individual blossoms left throughout the garden. What a season of bloom it's been!



June 18, 2019: The cooler, wetter spring delayed the peony garden bloom for a few days but it also helped keep the garden looking fresh over a long period. Heavy rain and hot sunny days speed up the bloom and decline of any garden. We're fortunate to be experiencing a magnificent bloom season. See the garden as soon as you can as it is trending past peak. Lots of individual blooms are show-stoppers. Thanks to Michele Yanga for some close up shots.


June 16, 2019: The peony garden still looks beautiful but is past peak bloom. Lots of individual plants look fresh. See it in the next few days.

June 14, 2019: The peony garden still looks great overall but is past peak. Lots of individual plants showing beautiful blooms. Visit this weekend for sure to see the final days of the show.


June 9, 2019: Spectacular show at the peony garden this morning. The garden went from 40% in bloom on Friday to double that today. Nearly all plants are blooming, with a lot of side buds still to come. Visit today!

June 7, 2019: The Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden is starting to put on a show. At about 40% bloom this morning (June 7) today and the weekend should be spectacular. Below are photos of several individual peonies you'll find blooming right now. Self-guided tours and peony ID maps are available at the garden. (1610 Washington Hts., Ann Arbor).



June 5, 2019: June 5 is a special day: it's W.E. Upjohn's birthday and the peony garden is really beginning to bloom in earnest. If you've watched this space for updates you know that 2019 has been a later season for blooming than recent years. W.E. Upjohn was a University of Michigan alumnus and the donor who made the gift of peonies to the UM in 1922. This living gift formed the core of the peony collection and what would become the largest collection of heirloom herbaceous peonies in North America. Evening of June 5 Matthaei-Nichols held a peony pop-up event for members. The pop-up featured an exclusive tour of the peony garden with our curator, David Michener, as well as a cake decorated with peony flowers. As for the garden, nearly 100 years later it's still blooming. Congratulations!

The individual plant pictured below (photo by Michele Yanga) is peony 'Faith Fenton.' This statueque plant stands nearly 6 feet tall with very large blossoms. Also pictured is the peony cake made for the June 5 celebration of W.E. Upjohn.



June 3, 2019: The lateness of the peony season this year continues to surprise us at Matthaei-Nichols. As a comparison, on May 29, 2018 the peony garden was 40% in bloom. Today, June 3, 2019, the garden is very very close to blooming. Nearlyevery plant has buds showing color. A few herbaceous peonies are blooming such as Rosy Dawn (pictured below; white petaled); Postillion (red); and "Unknown" (pink). Today is forecast to be cool but sunny. Any day now the garden will burst into bloom. Stay tuned!


May 28, 2019: This year's peony season is proving yet again that nature is in the driver's seat when it comes to bloom dates. The cool, rainy spring has slowed down what would usually be a garden in bloom by May 28. Even if the herbaceous peonies aren't quite open yet there's plenty to see: tree peonies along the hillside at the peony garden are in full bloom as well as azaleas, dogwood, and other spring flowers. Photographer Michele Yanga took these photos of the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden May 28. Pink tree peony 'Leda', coral tree peony 'Gauguin,' plus a view of the hillside showing other tree peonies and the tropically orange Klondyke azalea in the background.



May 26, 2019: The sole herbaceous peony blooming on Sunday, May 26 is Roselette. All other palnts are covered with buds, most of them showing petal color underneath. Crazy weather, cool spring. But still the herbaceous peonies will very likely take off in the next few days. Lots of tree peonies in bloom, including Hyacinthine Dragon Lying in Ink Pool, and Phoenix White. Also, the azaleas and rhododendrons are blooming, including the tropically colored and heavenly scented Klondyke. Below, clockwise from top left: Hyacinthine Dragon Lying in Ink Pool, and Phoenix White, Azalea Klondyke, herbaceous peony Roselette.





May 17, 2019: No blooms yet, but warm weather will speed up the process! In the meantime, be sure to come and check out our spring-flowering trees. (Photos by Michele Yanga.)


May 10, 2019: The herbaceous peonies are about knee-high, and almost all of them are showing flower buds. The fernleaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia) is about to bloom. The tree peonies and Itoh peonies (cross between tree and herbaceous) are also looking vigorous. Most of the tree peonies bloom 2-3 weeks before the herbaceous, extending the peony show by several weeks. Pictured here are ants on a peony bud, a fernleaf peony starting to open, and a wide-angle view of the garden.



April 29, 2019: Matthaei-Nichols Curator David Michener took this photo of the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden on April 29, 2019. At this point in the spring people notice peonies coming up in their own gardens. Those early reddish shoots are also showing up and rising quickly in the Arboretum peony garden. In this photo you can see the herbaceous peonies sprouting on both sides of the center walkway. In the background on the right, tree peonies are even further along. The tree peonies tend to bloom 2-3 weeks prior to the herbaceous peonies. Stay tuned for more updates as the season progresses.





2018 season below:

June 21, 2018: A misty first-day-of-summer morning in the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden signals the end of the peony bloom season. A scant few blooms remain, like ‘Helen Wolaver’ (pictured below) but the majority of plants have finished blooming. It’s been a great and long season in the garden this year!


June 18, 2018: The 2018 peony garden season is nearly over. This morning a few random plants were in flower, such as 'Pink Baroness Schroeder' (pictured below) but otherwise the majority of the garden is done. This has been an amazing season of blooming peonies, beginning the third week of May with early-blooming herbaceous peonies and many of the tree peonies putting on a big show of large blossoms. Nearly a month of peonies in bloom!


June 15, 2018: Probably fewer than 5% of the plants are in bloom. Bloom season 2018 is drawing to a close. The peony garden is still beautiful. Visit today and this weekend to see the last of the blooms.

June 13, 2018: Matthaei-Nichols volunteer photographer Michele Yanga took these photos of plants still blooming in the garden. Visit soon before the show is over!

Pictured are peonies 'Auten's Pride'; 'Jeannot'; and 'New Millenium.'


June 12, 2018: Garden trending down but remaining blooms are numerous and spread across the garden. Some individual photos of peonies in bloom:


June 10, 2018: The garden is still beautiful but after yesterday's rain it's starting to trend down. Still, lots of plants have beautiful full blooms on them. Definitely see the garden today. Here's a look at how things stand:


June 8, 2018: The main beds of historic herbaceous peonies continue to bloom nearly two weeks after the first peonies opened. Volunteers and student interns dead-headed the plants the last couple of days (removed spent blooms) and that process keeps the garden looking fresh. Come out to the garden this weekend to see the peonies and Shakespeare in the Arb, now showing "Romeo & Juliet Thursdays-Sundays through June 24. Here's one grand herbaceous peony you'll see this weekend: Florence Nicholls, a lush pink beauty.

June 6, 2018: The peony garden is going strong and is holding at peak bloom as of June 6, 2018. Some of the early-blooming peonies have already faded but most of the garden looks great. Some of the Itoh peonies we planted last fall are blooming. Itoh peonies are a cross between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies. Pictured here are Itoh 'Sonoma Welcome' and 'Going Bananas' along with herbaceous peony 'Queen of Hamburg' looking well-dressed in multiple layers of pink.




June 4, 2018: Garden still very much in bloom, with some of the newly planted intersectional, or Itoh, peonies making an appearance---like this pink-purpled centered Rosy Prospects. Photos by Michele Yanga.


June 3, 2018: Early morning before a predicted brief but drenching rain, the garden is at peak and for some plants a bit beyond. See the garden today after the rain moves through. Also, at 2 pm Sunday June 3, the U-M Confucius Institute presents "Peony Blossoms and Pure Melodies," a concert of Chinese flower songs. Plus, see what kinds of peonies local gardeners are growing at the Michigan Peony Society cut-flower show in Nichols Arboretum at 1. Free.

Take a look at some of the blooms in the peony garden (left to right or top to bottomw depending on your device): Bride's Dream; Flame; Gay Paree; a yellow Chinese herbaceous pepny, Huang Jin Lun; James R. Mann; Therese.


June 1, 2018: The garden today is nearly at peak bloom with what looks likeabout 60% in bloom. Come out toady and this weekend to enjoy the garden and the cooler weather. Lower temps keep the peonies looking fresh longer. Below: a wide-angle view shows near-peak bloom; Itoh peony 'Kopper Kettle.' Itoh peonies are crosses between tree peonies and herbaceous peonies; a very tall peony (5 ft.) called 'Faith Fenton' near the back of the garden; a wide-angle view of the peony garden looking toward washington Hts.



May 31, 2018: The garden is approaching 50% bloom and is getter more full everyday. Beautiful pinks, reds, and whites are filling up each bed and drawing in many visitors. Head over for a visit and pick out your favorite one! 



May 28, 2018: The main beds of herbaceous peonies are beginning to open on Memorial Day. Looks like approx 5% of the garden is in bloom. The tree peonies are still blooming in the surrounding beds, including some spectacular red and yellow tree peonies. Below: wide angle view of the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden May 28, 2018; tree peonies in shades of pink, yellow, and burgundy; a brilliantly red herbaceous peony.



May 24, 2018: Chinese and Japanese tree peonies are in bloom, encompassing a range of colors and forms. Photos by Julia Lawson and Michele Yanga. Below, from top left: Chinese tree peonies on the ridge above the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden (Lawson); Chinese tree peony Garnet-Red Light on the Desk (Lawson); Chinese tree peony Guardian of the Monastery (Yanga); Japanese tree peony (unmarked; Yanga); Japanese tree peony Hinode Sekai (Yanga); Chinese tree peony Hyacinthine Dragon Lying In Ink Pool (Lawson).





May 20, 2018: Early bloomer Roselette heralds the season.

On May 17, 2018, the peonies are about 2 feet tall with many showing flower buds. Right now the tree peonies are starting to bloom, extending the season earlier into May. Check out our "Now Playing" page for pictures of some of the flowering action.


What is peak bloom? Peak bloom represents an ideal time to visit the garden and see many different peonies in bloom. 

The Peony Garden peak bloom time usually begins in late May to early June. This is when a majority of the herbaceous peonies burst into an intense display that usually lasts about two weeks.

  • Peak bloom may arrive more than 10 days early if unusually warm weather "pushes" the garden, or it can be delayed if we have a week of cool days and nights. The duration of peak bloom depends on the weather, too. Hot dry winds take the garden down days too early for us; calm cool days can extend the peak season by nearly a week.
  • The Peony Garden is always into its post-bloom summer growing season by the Summer Solstice.

An urban myth says there is a peak day when all are in bloom. Not so - there is a peak season. Since each peony blooms on its individual schedule based on weather and genetic programming, there has never been a "peak day" when all are in bloom. Nor will that ever happen. So enjoy them in bloom and revel that Nature runs on its own calendar. 

2017 Peony Garden Season:

June 14, 2017: Bloom season is coming to a close. A few blooms on plants but most of the remaining peonies have faded. It's been an amazing season, lasting from mid-May through mid-June. Kudos to staff and volunteers for their careful maintenance of the garden, which involves a lot of staking and a lot of deadheading spent flowers.

June 7, 2017: Garden still glorious and in full bloom. Some plants starting to fade. With warm weather coming this weekend, the days ahead will be the best ones to visit.

June 5, 2017: The garden is in full bloom. With warm weather coming this weekend, the days ahead will be the best ones to visit.

June 2, 2017: The garden is at 75 - 80% bloom. We're calling this the peak. See the garden this weekend.

May 31, 2017: The garden is nearly 50% in bloom. See it this week. For more images of the garden this morning click on our "Now Playing" page.

May 18, 2017: The tree peonies in the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden are providing most of the excitement at the moment. Tree peonies bloom two to three weeks earlier than the herbaceous peonies. This earlier bloom extends the peony garden show significantly. The flowers on the pink-and-white-striped tree peony shown here (Shima-nishiki) will turn all striped as the plant ages. 

May 14, 2017: Mother's Day in the peony garden and a lot of tree peonies in bloom. Tree peonies bloom 2-3 weeks before herbaceous peonies do. We've planted several new tree peonies in the beds surrounding the main herbaceous beds. Visit this week for a look at these beautiful tree peonies in shades of pink, purple, white, and yellow.

May 10, 2017: The herbaceous peony shown for May 10 is a new one for us, a species selection of the fern-leaf peony, Paeonia tenuifolia, according to Matthaei-Nichols Curator David Michener. This species was---and still is---used in breeding very-early-flowering cultivars. But it's not fragrant, and definitely produces progeny in the red range. The entire bed consists of new acquisitions of important species in the history of breeding herbaceous peonies in Western culture, as well as some of the landmark hybrids. Our historic peonies are mostly P. lactiflora cultivars bred against themselves over centuries with the more interesting ones since ca. 1890 having varied percentages of parentage of additional species.

May 6, 2017 status: Several tree peonies are starting to bloom. Tree peonies bloom two weeks or so prior to the herbaceousl peonies in the main beds. Stay tuned for more tree peony images.


2016 Peony Garden Season:

June 17 status: The 2016 peony season comes to a close. A few blossoms linger, and some of them are still fresh, but the blooms are mostly done. The wide-angle photo on the home page paints a picture of the overall bloom status. A remarkable month-long blooming season this year, with the tree peonies adding to the season length.

June 14 status: This has been an amazing season, lasting a month from first herbaceous peony bloom on May 14 to the last of the plants blooming on June 14. While the majority of the garden has finsihed blooming, there are still individual plants that look great. 

June 12 status: The garden is beginning to fade but 20% of the plants are still blooming. Some peony blossoms look full and fresh. Overall, the garden has put on an amazing show this year.

June 10 status: The peony garden has now been blooming for almost a month. The first herbaceous peony bloomed on May 16. Today---June 10---the garden still looks good but is startinf to fade. There are many dindivual plants and flowers shwoing off. Check our "Now Playing" page for a look at the June 10 blooms. With Saturday forecast in the low 90s, today and tomorrow may be the last time to see the garden until next year.

June 8 status: The cooler weather is keeping the peony garden looking fresh. Lots of blooms left even as individual plants trend past peak. Put a visit to the garden on the calendar before the season ends for the year.

June 6 status: Peony Garden is still beautiful enough for a visit! Days of heat followed by torrential rains over the weekend bowed many flower stalks and scattered petals on the ground. If you're still planning on catching the garden in bloom, make it early this week.

June 5 status: Days of heat followed by an evening of significant rainfall have the peony garden looking bedraggled but still beautiful. With more rain coming today Sunday, June 5 may be one of the last good days to see the peonies.

June 3 status: The garden is at 85-90% bloom by our estimate. The warm weather this week and last really accelerated the blooming. See the garden today and this weekend.

May 31 status: The number of peonies blooming has increased dramatically from the morning hours to Tuesday evening the 31st. That's the story according to volunteer photographer Michele Yanga, who took the bloom status photo Tuesday evening.

May 30 status: We have peonies! About 15-20% of the herbaceous peonies are open. Memorial Day and through this week will be perfect for viewing the garden.

May 26 status: The Season Opens! 'Montezuma' is one of the first peonies now in bloom. Just under 1% of the plants have begun to bloom since yesterday - promising a great start to the season this Memorial Day weekend. Visit this website for nearly daily updates through the rest of the season.

May 25 status: Many herbaceous peony flower buds showing color. Given the warm weather and possible forecast for the Memorial Day weekend, we're more or less on schedule for an end-of-May to Memorial Day bloom. stay tuned, and visit this webiste for updates throughout the rest of the season. 

May 22 status: Two herbaceous peonies blooming plus loads of tree peonies: Guardian of the Monastery, Snow-Kissed Peach, and more. The main beds are chest high and on schedule to bloom most likely Memorial Day weekend, especially if we get the mid-80s temps forecasted for Ann Arbor this coming week. 

May 18 status: The first herbaceous peony is starting to bloom. The rest of the garden is still likely 10 days to 2 weeks from bloom. Thanks to Michele Yanga for capturing a view of the first peony bloom.

May 16 status: Tree peonies beginning to bloom, like this tree peony 'Hephestos' (photograph courtesy Michele Yanga). Despite the cooler weather we are still aiming for an end-of-May bloom time for the main peony garden.

May 10 status: Full, lush plants, many hip high. Plenty of buds with visiting ants. Tree peonies any day now, but this cooler weather could slow things down.

May 4 status: Many plants are over a foot tall, with buds showing. The garden appears to be on schedule: larege numbers of blooms around Memorial Day. Tree peonies are also budding. Tree peonies bloom a week or two earlier than herbaceous peonies.

April 14 status: Peony shoots are emerging and visible from the entrance of the garden. The tree peonies leafing out with buds showing.

March 30 status: Peony shoots are beginning to emerge but are not obvious from a distance. The tree peonies are in very early bud-break.

March 10 status: No peony shoots as of March 9 but warming days will bring them up.