Visiting the Peony Garden at Nichols Arboretum has been on my to-do list for several years. I finally visited with a friend in 2019 and was looking forward to a return trip in 2020 with my family. Sadly, they requested no visits in 2020 due to social distancing. Fortunately, for 2021 they are allowing visitors. We have walked by a couple of times in recent months and the peonies weren’t blooming yet. However, even in non-peony bloom time this area of the arboretum can get crowded. We suggest masks even though you are outside out of consideration of other visitors.
About the Peony Garden
The Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden first opened in 1927. The garden can hold up to 800 peonies resulting in 10,000 blooms.
It is the largest public collection of heritage peonies in North America. There are 350 historic herbaceous varieties from the US, Canada, and Europe many of which are no longer commercially available. These heritage varieties are from the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.
Over the weekend I saw many pictures from friends visiting the Peony Garden. By going at during the school day, we were able to avoid the worst of the crowds. Even so, the garden still had plenty of people in it.
We only spent about 30 minutes in the Peony Garden. It was plenty of time for a casual visit. If you have more time, there are picture maps that describe the varieties of peonies. There is also much more to explore in The Arb beyond the Peony Garden.
My daughter opted out of visiting due to her seasonal allergies. However, the peony garden is a good choice for children. There is room for them to explore and roam. Let them search for their favorite color peony. There is some shade available and there are grassy areas that would be perfect for a picnic lunch or snack. Note, the paths are gravel which may make a stroller difficult.
Visiting the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden
The Peony Garden is near the Washington Heights entrance to Nichols Arboretum (1610 Washington Heights, Ann Arbor). I was expecting a longer walk from the entrance to The Arb. I’m just lucky to have picked the right entrance.
The Peony Garden is typically in bloom from late May through mid-June. The wet, cool spring in 2019 delayed the peony season. On June 7, the garden was only at 40% bloom. By June 9 it was at 80%. I visited on the 12th and it was blooming nicely. As of May 17, they were estimating that blooms were 7-10 days away. Tree peonies were blooming on May 20th. As of May 28 they are reporting 50/800 peonies in bloom. More blooms are expected over Memorial Day weekend and into mid-June.
Social Distancing Precautions
The outdoor mask order is still in place when in groups of more than 100 (even for the vaccinated). The peony garden can get quite crowded during peony season, so I suggest wearing masks or at least bringing them in case of crowds.
Nichols Arboretum Hours & Admission
Nichols Arboretum is open 7 days a week from sunrise to sunset. Admission to Nichols Arboretum is free.
Parking for Nichols Arboretum
There are a few spots on Washington Heights that are reserved for Nichols Arboretum members. There are also a limited number of metered parking spots on Washington Heights near the School of Public Health. I was able to get one of these spots.
There is a Blue UM lot (M28) at the School of Public Health – 1500 Washington Heights. From the website, this lot is enforced Monday-Friday from 6a-5p. Be sure to verify the enforcement details on the signs in the lot before parking in evenings and weekends. The M29 blue lot near the helipad is also available in evenings and on weekends. Walking from the M29 lot will include a steep ascent.
According to the Nichols Arboretum website, the Peony Garden is about a 15 minute walk from the Geddes Road entrance.