Peonies in bloom
Each spring, eager visitors make a special trek through our gardens just to view our peony collection. Here are a few beauties that you’ll see:
The peony collection is one of the earliest features of the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. It consists of seven beds arranged in a spoke-like pattern that allows visitors to get up close to photograph (and sniff!) the blooms. Most of the plants were donated by Klehm Nursery in 1983-84, and the majority are the original plants, since peonies can live 25-50 years, or even longer.
Everyone has a favorite from our peony collection, which consists of 70 named cultivars and is recognized by the American Peony Society. Some of the plants are rare, and many of them have won awards over the years.
The scientific name of these cultivars is Paeonia lactiflora, and they are “herbaceous” types, which means they die back in the fall and send up new shoots in the spring. The cultivar names are intriguing, ranging from ‘Bridal Icing’ and ‘Raspberry Sundae’ to ‘President Lincoln’ and ‘Mr. Ed.’ Each name is displayed on a green stake next to the plant, so that any visitor who takes a fancy to a particular flower should be able to obtain it from a nursery or website that offers peony tubers.
Best viewing time
Memorial Day weekend is the time traditionally recommended for viewing our peonies. Some will bloom earlier, and others a little later, depending on the specific plant. Also, weather conditions in any particular year can affect bloom time.
In addition to the seven peony beds, peonies are grown in other areas of the Dubuque Arboretum & Botanical Garden grounds. Several tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa) can be found in the Japanese Garden. Their leaves drop in the fall, but the woody stems stay intact over the winter. To the left of the Herb Garden is a row of intersectional peonies, which are crosses between herbaceous and tree peonies. Assorted individual peonies also appear in some of the perennial beds.
[Article credit: Kennie Harris | Charlotte Schope]
Interested in creating your own peony collection?
P. Allen Smith shows how to plant these exciting flowers:
Learn even more about growing peonies in our video tutorial section.