Have you witnessed this remarkable natural spectacle?

By: Melanie Grinnell | June 13, 2022

We have a natural wonder right here in Southeast Michigan and if you hurry, you can catch it! 

Envision walking through a garden bursting forth with about 10,000 stunning peony blossoms in every hue of white, blush, pink, and red. Tucked away in a magical forest glade, this enchanting flood of peonies is comprised of about 800 different plants and over 270 different varieties. Celebrating its centennial this year, the W.E. Upjohn Peony Garden in the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum is the largest peony garden in North America. It’s a dream to behold.

Peonies will take you on an aromatic journey

Just as wine-tasting is an adventure for the taste buds, a peony bed is a scent adventure for your nose. Different plant varieties can have varying types and degrees of layered scent. Some notes are subtle and whispery, others are powerful, like a fragrant operatic aria of flowery essence. Notes of fragrance are best detected when the blooms are not in full sun in the middle of the day, which can mute the fragrances. If you want to maximize your olfactory experience, try to schedule your trip for a morning, before the heat of the day, or evening after it’s cooled a bit. You can definitely still enjoy scents during the afternoon, but you might be able to smell fewer varieties—and even if you can smell them, you might miss out on some of the more complex notes.

Families are always on the go, and the Trailblazer combines safety, comfort and accessibility to fit your family's needs. Discover the available features that make Trailblazer an ideal family SUV.

Scents can range from rosy and sweet, to vibrant, spicey, and citrusy. Some have no scent at all—typically, red ones do not. If you want to take a scent tour of the garden, the website offers a guide to help you find the plants with the most pleasing fragrances. Go to the walking guides page and download the “Fragrant Peonies” guide. It could be a fun activity for kids!

Capturing the essence of peonies

All are welcome (except for dogs) and there is no admission fee. You can just come and take it all in or you are welcome to use the garden as a background for pics for your social media. You can even bring photography equipment, or a chair, an easel, and paints and brushes for those who are inspired to try to capture nature’s artistry. Bright sun tends to wash out the flowers’ bold colors so for the best light for experiencing colors at their boldest, come in the morning or evening hours.

Other gardens and trails to explore

After you’ve experienced the peonies, you can explore the Arb if you wish to increase your dose of nature. There are several trails through the 100-acre park. The rolling hills provide beautiful scenery and you can choose to walk through woods or other gardens, including an herb garden, perennial garden, children’s garden, bonsai garden, and others. Check the website for details. 

You can also continue your walking and exploration into Ann Arbor’s downtown or neighborhoods and then grab a drink or something to eat at one of the many bars and restaurants the town has to offer.

100 Years of Peonies

If you like flowers, you will love this treasure, 100 years in the making. Many of the original plants are still thriving right in the very same spot where they were planted in 1922. It ranks among the most impressive peony displays in the world and we are fortunate enough to have it right here in our own Metro Detroit backyard. 

The peony garden is open 7 days per week, sunrise to sunset. It’s located near the 1610 Washington Heights entrance to Nichols Arboretum.  

One windy storm can wrap up the season early, but if you miss them this year, they’ll be back again next year. The season starts around Memorial Day, depending on the weather. Get there soon and mark it in your calendar for next year!