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U-M’s historic peony garden in Nichols Arboretum saw record bloom season

U-M’s historic peony garden in Nichols Arboretum saw record bloom season

The U-M peony garden at Nichols Arboretum contains up to 800 plants that produce as many as 10,000 blossoms at peak bloom. Photo by Daryl Marshke/Michigan Photography.

ANN ARBOR—Following a pandemic year in which visitors were asked to stay away, the nearly century-old peony garden in the University of Michigan’s Nichols Arboretum welcomed them back with a banner bloom year. 

The garden, begun in 1922 with a gift of peony plants from U-M alumnus W.E. Upjohn, celebrated its 99th year of bloom from about Memorial Day through mid-June.

The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.

The garden’s nearly 800 plants produce up to 10,000 flowers at peak bloom. It’s believed to be the largest collection of heirloom herbaceous peonies in North America. 

Recent plantings of tree peonies bloom earlier than the herbaceous varieties, extending the blooming season another two to three weeks. A multiyear renovation effort is nearly complete as the peony garden readies for its centennial celebration in 2022.

With many other 2021 university and botanical garden events on hold, the peony garden remained the focus of attention in Nichols Arboretum this spring. 

The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.
The peony gardens were in peak bloom during the first and second weeks of June 2021. Photo by Daryl Marshke.

The Arb is located near the U-M hospital on central campus and is part of the university’s Matthaei Botanical Gardens & Nichols Arboretum. At both the botanical gardens and arboretum, the trails and natural areas are open daily from sunrise to sunset. 

The buildings and display gardens at Matthaei are currently closed to the public but plans are underway to reopen those spaces at some point this summer. The teaching and research spaces at both locations remain open to U-M faculty and students.

For more images of this year’s peony blooms, visit the University Record’s photo gallery.