Birds are chirping and the sweet fragrance of perennial blooms drifts in the breeze. Look no further than around town and our Learning Gardens to see what is in bloom now. Three all time favorite perennials on show are Peony, Iris, and Rose. Pair with pink Verbena groundcover to spikes of purple Salvia, and the high flying blue stars of Amsonia in your own sunny garden spot.

Paeonia, Peony

Peonies (Paeonia) are nostalgic flowers whose beauty and fragrance often bring back fond memories. Some can live for a couple of decades when planted in the right place. There are three basic types of peonies.

Herbaceous peonies require minimal effort year after year. Late September, cut them to the ground, then watch them burst forth in spring with spectacular blooms. Newer varieties have been bred shorter in stature with sturdy stems that hold up well in the garden.

Tree peonies range in size from 2’ to 4’ tall and have larger flowers than the herbaceous peony. Tree peonies die back to woody stems and do not need to be cut back in fall. They are quite happy in a partially shady site, where other peonies prefer full sun.

Itoh peonies provide a broad range of colors and are a hybrid of herbaceous and tree peonies. Itoh peonies combine the rounded form of the herbaceous peony with the larger blooms of the tree peony. We recommend leaving Itoh peonies intact through spring, only pruning what is not showing life at that time.


Irises come in a wide range of colors and provide beauty with both their bloom and foliage. The three basic kinds of irises that grow from rhizomes are Siberian, Bearded, and Variegated.

Siberian Irises, such as the classic ‘Ceasar’s Brother’, bloom early in the spring at the same time as tulips and daffodils. They are often seen around ponds due to their love of wet areas.

Bearded irises have six sepals with three drooping down to produce falls. Many bloom in late spring and thrive in well-drained soil. Some varieties have occasional later blooms.

Variegated irises are known for their fragrance and showy, green and golden or cream striped foliage. The light purple flower on Iris pallida smells like grape bubblegum.


This year, we’ve had 114 varieties of roses. From Climbing to Hybrid Tea to Grandiflora to Floribunda to Miniature to Shrub roses, you can’t help but stop and smell the roses when visiting! Knock Out Roses tend to be a favorite. They were developed to be disease resistant and withstand our Midwest hot, humid summers and cold winters. All roses require at least 6 hours of sun, well-drained moist soil, and are good for cutting. The informational signs on site by each variety provide the size and color, and reveal if they are fragrant or rebloom. There is sure to be a rose or two for your garden.