Flowers begin to bloom in Ann Arbor's famous Peony Garden

Garden at Nichols Arboretum draws thousands of visitors each year

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

The first blooms of the season on May 29, 2018. (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)

ANN ARBOR - From late May to mid-June, bursts of color take over the Peony Garden at the Nichols Arboretum as thousands of historic herbaceous peonies begin to bloom.

It is currently the largest collection of herbaceous peonies dating pre-1950 in North America. These varieties can be found on the main grid of the garden. Other plants include classic to mid-20th-century tree peonies and intersectional (Itoh) peonies which are a hybrid between herbaceous peonies and tree peonies.

The field of blooms is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, and is arguably one of the most instagrammed spots during May and June in Ann Arbor.

According to the arboretum, the flowers' fragrance is best in the early morning and evenings.

Here is the arboretum's guide to the bloom timeframes:

  • Tree peonies always bloom first, usually in April. Each flower may last only a day or two. Think of these as a herald to spring.
  • Herbaceous peonies begin to flower around Memorial Day and taper out by the summer solstice. The flowers of herbaceous peonies can last for several days, and the diversity of cultivars provides a long bloom season. 
  • Peak bloom in the Peony Garden typically runs from Memorial Day (late May) to the summer solstice (mid-June). The peak bloom can vary by 10 days from year to year, depending on the weather. Warm weather makes the plants bloom early. The arrival of summer, if announced by intense thunderstorms followed by windy hot days, can end the season in a snap.

Check live updates from staff on the garden's Peony Bloom Countdown page.

The first blooms of the season on May 29, 2018. (Photo: Meredith Bruckner)


How to visit

  • The Nichols Arboretum is open sunrise to sunset every day of the week and admission is free.
  • Tours are self-guided, but Peony Ambassadors are on hand to answer questions.

Events at the Peony Garden

Peonies Galore Sale
June 1, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

"Add some vintage beauty to your garden at this sale of heirloom peonies held near the historic Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden. Matthaei-Nichols members enjoy a special pre-sale hour from 9 to 10 a.m. with a discount on purchases. Public sale opens at 10 a.m.. Arrive early; peonies sell quickly! Free parking available weekends in the University of Michigan blue lot above the Ronald Macdonald House."  

Concert: Peony Blossoms and Pure Melodies
June 2, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

"An afternoon of Chinese flower songs sung by community members and UM staff. This is a free event."

Shakespeare in the Arb 2019: Twelfth Night
June 6, 6:30 p.m. | June 7, 9:30 p.m.

"This season’s play is Twelfth Night, directed by Kate Mendeloff of the U-M Residential College, Carol Gray, and Graham Atkin and performed by U-M students and community players. Performance dates are Thursday throug Sunday, June 6-9; 13-16; 20-23. Member benefit: Matthaei-Nichols members may reserve tickets in advance. This option lets you reserve tickets and pay for them the evening of the performance."

Reserve tickets here.

To learn more, visit

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