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Seeing the peonies in bloom at the University of Michigan's Nichols Arboretum peony garden is an annual tradition for many Metro Detroiters, but garden officials are asking people to steer clear of the blooms in Ann Arbor this year.

With COVID-19 still gripping Michigan, Bob Grese, director of the University of Michigan's Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols arboretum, is asking people to skip their annual visit. In a press release issued Tuesday, Grese said the peonies will still, of course, bloom but  "the celebration of the annual peony bloom in the arboretum and the crowds that usually attend will not happen this year." 

"I never imagined I'd be saying this to the thousands of visitors hoping to see the peonies: please do not visit the garden this year," Grese said. "We simply cannot have crowds of any size visiting. The risk to your health and others' is too great."

The peony garden at the Nichols Arboretum dates back nearly a century. It started in 1922 with a gift of peonies from Dr. W.E. Upjohn, a UM alumnus and peony aficionado. The garden, which now has more than 900 individual plants, has bloomed each year since. Peonies typically bloom in late spring at the end of May and early June.

Grese suggests peony fans check out the garden's online content instead this year.

"We're ramping up efforts to get a lot of peony content online, both to our dedicated peony website and to the Matthaei-Nichols website," he said. "We've even pushed to publish a new book with UM Press out in time for people to enjoy during the peony bloom season. The book is currently available from UM Press and will soon be available for order online from our gift shop."

To learn more about the peony garden at the Nichols Arboretum, go to https://peony.mbgna.umich.edu/.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com.

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