For me, summer is really here in Michigan when peonies bloom. The showy, huge flowers of this perennial open in late May and mid-June, just in time for the summer solstice. Inspired by a wonderful peony garden many years ago, I started growing my own.
Michigan Peony Garden
My love of peony flowers started when I first saw the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden at the University of Michigan many years ago. At that time a university student, I loved wandering in “arb” as we called it. The best time was early summer when the campus calmed down and the weather was warm.
Begun in the 1920s, Peony Garden has thrilled visitors for nearly 100 years. Dr. WE Upjohn, a university ally, helped start the garden with plants from his collection of over 600 peony cultivars. The garden is now the largest public collection of historical peonies.
Peonies growing in the garden
For years I have enjoyed seeing the flowery range of every shade of white and pink in the Peony Garden. It became a sign of summer for me and in the end I was able to plant some in my home garden.
Although it is nothing like the historical collection, my few peonies in the garden are thriving. Here are some tips for growing peony that I’ve learned over the years to grow these wonderful perennials:
- The best time to insert a new peony is autumn. This is also the best time to move or divide a mature peony plant. Make sure that new or transplanted peony has at least six weeks to adjust before the soil starts to freeze.
- Peonies perform better in full sun but tolerate some shade.
- Poles are often needed to support large and beautiful peony flowers. Since they can be so heavy, it’s also best to plant somewhere out of the wind.
- Keep peonies away from trees and other shrubs, as they don’t do well when competing for nutrients.
- The soil for peonies should be rich and fertile with a neutral pH. Fertilizer is generally not necessary. Peonies prefer soil enriched with compost.
- Deadhead blooms when they fade away. Cut the stems back in the fall.
- Yes, peonies attract ants, but they are not parasites. Ants feed on nectar and, in return, will eat insects that are parasites.