Michigan and the Great Lakes

Passion for Peonies

Celebrating the Culture and Conservation of Nichols Arboretum's Beloved Flower
David Michener and Robert Grese, Editors

A beautiful account of the Peony Garden, the University of Michigan's "living museum," that is sure to delight any reader


There’s no more breathtaking signal of summer’s onset than the blooming of peonies. Stunningly beautiful and relatively easy to grow, peonies are a favorite flower everywhere they can be cultivated and for good reason: the heady fragrances and enchanting colors of a peony-rich display create an immersive experience that has enamored generations of garden lovers across the world. This passion is on full display each June at the historic Peony Garden of the University of Michigan’s Nichols Arboretum.

Originally planted in 1922, the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden now boasts North America’s largest public collection of heirloom herbaceous peonies. The Peony Garden has become a sacred space for the Ann Arbor community, a not-to-be-missed sensation when it erupts each season, as the Ann Arbor Observer once wrote, in “a riot of color, of crimson, rose and shell pink intermingled with fluffy pompoms of creamy white.” The rather short period of peak bloom—about two fleeting weeks each year—only seems to intensify the garden’s appeal, drawing thousands of visitors annually to this spectacular “living museum” on campus that showcases upwards of 10,000 blossoms.

Richly illustrated with hundreds of striking color photos, Passion for Peonies collects short essays that celebrate the story of the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden as well as the rich social history of peony gardening that it is an integral part of. Together these pieces comprise a love letter both to a magical public space at the University of Michigan and to the broader history and culture of peony gardening. The book will appeal to readers interested in the University of Michigan, the history of public gardens, and of course peonies!

Praise for the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden
“In late May and early June, Nichols Arboretum bursts into a swoon-worthy display of 300 peony plants. The annual pastel pageant—first opened to the public in 1927—is North America’s largest public display of heirloom peonies. Visitors circulate among the ruffled blooms with a sort of reverence, appearing to bow as they bend to breathe in the sweet scent. Although the sprawling University of Michigan medical complex is close by, a visit to this 100-plus-acre tract of meadow, prairie, woods and gardens seems a natural prescription for good health.”
—The Washington Post

David Michener has curated the peony garden at the University of Michigan’s Nichols Arboretum since 1990. He is co-author (with Carol A. Adelman) of Peony: The Best Varieties for Your Garden.

Robert Grese is Theodore Roosevelt Chair of Ecosystem Management in the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan as well as Director of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.

Praise / Awards

  • "Passion for Peonies should delight the flowering shrub's many fans. Among its chapters you'll find an intriguing history by Grese of the celebrated Nichols Peony Garden, planted in 1922 and first opened to the public five years later."
    The Detroit News
  • "This book is a loving ode to the peony in all its facets. A book in which you keep browsing and reading and it surprises you time and again."

News, Reviews, Interviews

Watch: Virtual Author Event | Link | 05/25/2021
Read: "New book from UM Press celebrates the magnificent peony" in The Detroit News Link | June 4, 2020
Listen: "A Book About Ann arbor's Historic Garden: A Place of Hope and Healing" from 89.1 WEMU Link | June 8, 2020

Product Details

  • 8.5 x 11.
  • 168pp.
  • color photos throughout.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2020
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03780-3

Add to Cart
  • $24.95 U.S.

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  • peony; flower; garden; Nichols Arboretum; University of Michigan; public gardens; Michigan; bloom