Standing in the Nichols Arboretum garden during the Peony Festival is a delight for the senses. On a sunny afternoon when the flowers are at peak bloom, the sweet scent of hundreds of peonies mingle and float on the air in an intoxicating aroma. Your eyes sweep over rows and rows of soft ruffled petals in cotton candy shades of pink and white.
The Peony Garden at Nichols Arboretum is located in Ann Arbor on the campus of the University of Michigan. It’s home to the largest collection of historic peonies in North America, varieties that were cultivated prior to the 1950s. Recently they’ve started adding tree peonies and modern hybrids to the collection also. Blooms usually peak between Memorial Day and Mid-June.
Every spring visitors flock to the Peony Festival to take in the beauty. The historic varieties of peonies at Nichols Arboretum are probably the same ones your mother or grandmother grew in their flowerbeds. The sights and smells may conjure up memories of summers past.
In 2022 the Peony Garden will celebrate 100 years. In anticipation of the centennial, the Arboretum is in the midst of a years long rejuvenation of the garden which includes reorganizing current plantings and adding new ones. A big celebration during the Peony Festival is planned for the 100th birthday. In the meantime, there’s still plenty to see and sniff during a visit.
The best weeks to visit the garden are generally the end of May to Mid-June. Weather affects when the flowers bloom and how long they last. Since spring weather in Michigan is fickle, it’s hard to predict more specific dates. If you want to be sure to catch the Peony Garden in full bloom, it’s best to keep tabs on the flowers’ progress by visiting the Arboretum’s Countdown to Bloom page on their website. They post daily updates on the flowers during the Peony season.
Know Before You Go to the Peony Festival
Nichols Arboretum is open dusk to dawn, seven days a week. Admission is free.
The Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden is located at 1610 Washington Hts. Ann Arbor, MI 48104, near the Urban Environmental Education Center at the Burnham House. Don’t go to the historical entrance with the wrought iron gates. It’s a 15 minutes walk from there to the peonies.
The on-street parking closest to the garden is limited. If it’s a busy day at the garden, be prepared to walk a little. You will need to pay either at a meter or a parking garage.
The Peony scents are strongest on warm afternoons.
Take some time to explore the area around campus. The Famous Zingerman’s Deli is a great place for lunch, and the wonderful Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market is just a few blocks from Zingerman’s.