The Peony Garden Blog

Post-Winter Growth Spurt Sparks Mega-staking Effort in Peony Garden

By student guest blogger Joel Klann

This year, for the first time in more than 80 years, every peony plant in Nichols Arboretum’s famed peony garden has been staked with bamboo reeds and biodegradable jute twine in order to provide pillars for support during what has turned out to be a period of bursting growth.

Horticulture manager Adrienne O’Brien decided to assist the peonies through their blooming period this spring due largely to her foresight that they might grow too large to support their own weight. A host of helping hands contributed to accomplishing this great chore, including staff, interns, and volunteers.

After its completion last Thursday, curator David Michener remarked that the staking of all of the 700-something plants hadn’t been undertaken since at least the 1930s. Those of us who have taken the time to examine and appreciate the flowers have observed a significant advance in their size, and we cannot overlook how far the peonies have stretched out this year in order to amass the all-important sunlight needed for photosynthesis.

Adrienne believes that the harsh winter followed by an abrupt shift to spring—along with heavy precipitation in both periods of time—are the primary reasons for the delayed, but continually piercing growth we have witnessed this year. Peonies are plants that thrive in climates with cold winters; they are extremely hardy perennials capable of living many years. Many in our own garden have remained for generations. We believe that by staking these plants as they tower over the ground we are contributing to their aesthetic quality, and more importantly, providing a greater display to any and all who visit the collection.

(Above: a view of the peony garden showing the plants' tall stems.)

Guest post by Joel Klann. Joel, who is from Detroit, MI, is a senior majoring in political science in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts with a Program in the Environment minor.Joel works for Matthaei-Nichols staff member Adrienne O’Brien.