The Bloom Season
Peonies bloom once a year, in the spring.
- Tree peonies always bloom first, usually in April. Each flower may last only a day or two. Think of these as a herald to spring.
- Herbacious peonies begin to flower around Memorial Day and taper out by the summer solstice. The flowers of herbaceous peonies can last for several days, and the diversity of cultivars provides a long bloom season.
- Peak bloom in the Peony Garden typically runs from Memorial Day (late May) to the summer solstice (mid-June). The peak bloom can vary by 10 days from year to year, depending on the weather. Warm weather makes the plants bloom early. The arrival of summer, if announced by intense thunderstorms followed by windy hot days, can end the season in a snap.
Above: The 2012 peony season included an evening of Chinese flower music in collaboration with The Confucius Institute and community partners.
- See Asian Connections for a video of part of the performance.
- Check our home page for upcoming Events in the Peony Garden.
When You Visit
When the peonies bloom, enjoy a leisurely stroll down the paths to admire the plants in full flower and immerse yourself in waves of color. Although a few peonies lack a noticeable fragrance, the vast majority yield a range of scents from delicate to bold. Take time to smell the flowers and savor a favorite.
Come during bloom season when you can—but keep in mind that time of day makes a difference. Flower color, subtlety, and fragrance are best in the mornings and late afternoon through dusk.
- Photographers: Early morning and evening hours have the best light and fewer visitors. Many of the colors wash out in bright sun, so bring a parasol if you come mid-day. Expect other visitors to be enjoying the Peony Garden even if you come as early as 7:00 a.m.
- Painters: Please set up on the turf paths so others can walk around you. If you seek shade, the pines over Laurel Ridge cast mid-morning shadows on a number of the turf paths. Please do not put easels or chairs in the shrub beds that are under the pines.
- Fragrance seekers: Complexly subtle peony fragrances are best detected before or after the heat of the day. During the heat of the day (early to mid afternoon) there are often only the strongest components of boldest scents - the complex notes are missing.