From the University website: The University of Michigan Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden presents a stunning spring display, currently with 350 historic herbaceous varieties (cultivars) from the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. These specimens represent many of the important American, Canadian, and European herbaceous peonies of the era – and over half are no longer commercially available. These fragrant spring beauties are arranged in 27 beds with each full bed containing 30 peonies. When filled to capacity the garden holds nearly 800 peonies and already over 10,000 flowers at peak bloom.
Dr. W. E. Upjohn, founder of the Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan, donated herbaceous peonies to the University of Michigan in 1922. The peony garden itself was designed by former Arboretum director Aubrey Tealdi and opened to the public in 1927. The long-intended tree peony beds are well into establishment with over 50 plants on the slopes above the main garden. A new bed for Intersectional [ITOH] peonies was planted in 2017. Once well-established, tree and Intersectional peonies will start the peony bloom season by up to three weeks before the historic beds come into bloom.
The site has a bloom count page that is updated regularly during the bloom season, so you can gauge the best time to go. Check it out here. We went this past Tuesday, but we should have waited until now or next week to go. I’m guessing only 5% of the blooms were out on Tuesday. Today they estimate 40%. Next year I won’t get impatient and will go during full bloom. One benefit was knowing the earliest bloomers. The photos are in no particular order. Wherever we saw open flowers we walked to them. The pictures of the labels show ones that were either way pretty or had a delicious aroma of ginger as peonies do. Not all of them have that fragrance. We also got a chance to see tree peonies, which is a first for me. There are also hybrids that are a cross between bush and tree, which I think are the “intersectional”/ITOH peonies, will have to investigate the site more. Besides the peonies, there is a pathway on the hills with lovely azaleas, rhododendron, and other blooming bushes/trees. Oh! something very interesting I noticed is that they have white helleborus planted in circles around some of the peonies on the side beds, which makes me think it is companion planting to keep the critters away from them, as every part of the helleborus is poisonous and is a natural repellent.
OK, on to the show!
orange and yellow azalias
yours truly, by some lovely pink azalias
these look an awful lot like poinsettia leaves, but there were no labels on them
One of the many helleborus planted around the plants on the sloped sides of the main beds.
The website tells you to bus in as there is no parking around. Depending on prayers and blessings, we decided to risk driving right up to it. There is a welcome center. In it sat 5 work study students (guessing, they may have been unpaid student volunteers). Two of them were friendly and helpful. There are probably 10 parking spaces along the curve where my car was sitting while I went in, with no open valid parking. The student gave me a parking validation thing to hang on my rearview mirror. This large thing had quite a bit of text on the back of it. Again hoping on prayers answered, we drove around the block and searched the area a few times, until yes! there was an open space on the 10-space curve! We parked and saw parking meters where you could pay for the space with a credit card. Thinking we were covered by the parking permit, we did not put money in the meter. We were there for between 60-90 minutes. Lo and behold there was a ticket on my windshield by the time we got back to the car. Reading the fine print on the red permit, it said paying at metered spaces was still required. Oh, ok, so the permit was permission park AND PAY. Silly me for thinking otherwise. The ticket said if I paid it online that day it would be $15. Within a week, $25. Beyond a week, $70. I paid it online when I got home and they tacked on over a dollar for a processing fee. The envelope that came with the ticket had an address out-of-state. Heads-up, U of MI and The City of Ann Arbor — put some of those students to work processing parking tickets instead of paying an out-of-state entity to do it.