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Changes for 2018 - 2020

We're making long-term improvements to the Peony Garden and the adjacent Laurel Ridge Trail. The overall Rejuvenation Plan sets the framework - and the work is scheduled year-by-year so that we're ready to host our Centennial in June, 2022. There's much to do!

Noteworthy Changes

4 beds have special themes

This year the beds with new themes are becoming established - well-established plants bloom the best 

  • Important French selections  Here are some of the most famous French peonies that inspired or represent the peony passion of the Belle Epoque (ca. 1871-1914).  [Bed 14]
  • Peony floral forms (two beds)  Floral forms from Simple to Double - step by step.  [Beds 17 and 20]

  • Important herbaceous species and their hybrids, with a special focus on American breeders in the first part of the 20th Century. [Bed 23]

In addition, Intersectional hybrids ("Itoh peonies") have been established in a new bed on the slope next to the stone stairway.

Chinese herbaceous peonies should bloom well !

The historic Chinese herbaceous peonies in Bed 11, procurred with the assistance of colleagues with the Luoyang International Peony Garden, should bloom well as they mature. Check them out!

Significant progress in the Rejuvenation Plan in Laurel Ridge

This many Asian-themed shrubs and small trees are beginning to show - all part of our Peony Garden Rejuvenation Plan. Some are caged to project them from the deer during their establishment phase. The new plantings reflect the generous support of the Ann Arbor Branch of the Women's National Farm and Garden Association.


What Happened to Heirloom Annuals?

As we fill the peony garden's spaces there are fewer empty spaces for heirloom annuals. For several  years they had a role in adding visual interest and summer color (and helping remind people to stay out of the beds) after the peonies bloomed.

What is an Heirloom Plant?

An heirloom plant is an open-pollinated cultivated variety (cultivar) that has been grown for many years and is often handed down through families. (Open-pollinated plants are pollinated by birds, insects, wind, and other natural mechanisms.) The commonly accepted cut off date for heirloom plants in the USA is 1951, just after World War II, when seed companies and growers began widespread use of complex, artifically-produced hybrid seed. The offspring of open-pollinated cultivars retain the parent plant’s traits even when the flower is pollinated naturally. There are many motivations to grow heirloom plants including maintaining genetic diversity, reintroducing formerly well-known varieties, growing rare plants, expanding beyond modern hybrid varieties, and historic interest.

About the Heriloom Annuals We've Grown

All of the heirloom annual varieties grown here were common in flower gardens since the 1800s. Modern cultivars of these plants have been bred for fashionable characteristics in flower color, form, and height. While modern cultivars are more common in flower gardens today, the historic cultivars were chosen for our Peony Garden because they reflect the era of the peonies. Indeed, similar heirloom annuals and peonies may have been grown together in flower gardens by generations past.

The drought-tolerant heirloom annuals in the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden were chosen specifically for their lack of appeal to deer, groundhogs, and rabbits - all of which pass through the Peony Garden without much impact (other than nibbling the turf paths). Of course, peonies, too, are highly un-desired by these grazing animals.

Heirloom Annuals in the Peony Garden

Centaurea cyanus – Bachelor’s Button
Cleome hassleriana – Spider Flower
Portulaca grandiflora – Moss Rose
Salvia coccinea – Scarlet Salvia