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Ann Arbor 200

W. E. Upjohn Peony Garden - Original Letterpress Print


Print of hand-drawn peony with quote from W.E. Upjohn by Elizabeth Isakson-Dado


This limited edition art print celebrates the W. E. Upjohn Peony Garden, established at Nichols Arboretum in 1923.

Printed 101 years later, this letterpress art print was commissioned on the occasion of Ann Arbor 200 for the Ann Arbor District Library.

The background imagery features my hand drawn peony blooms in chalk pastel, digitally reproduced on luxe archival cardstock.

The quote from W. E. Upjohn (from his self-published guide to peony collecting, circa 1927) is hand set in antique wood type & letterpress printed in copper-gold ink on a vintage press.

Elizabeth Isakson-Dado, The Aquarius House 2024


This limited-edition print was commissioned by the Ann Arbor District Library for Ann Arbor 200 and is available to purchase from the Elizabeth Isakson-Dado's shop:


About the W. E. Upjohn Peony Garden

On January 1, 2000, the Kalamazoo Gazette's front page declared Dr. William Erastus Upjohn (1853 - 1932) "Person of the Century". W. E. Upjohn, a lifelong resident of Kalamazoo County, positively impacted his western Michigan community in countless ways, most notably with his Upjohn Pharmaceutical Company. Across the state, here in Ann Arbor, Upjohn also left a notable, celebrated contribution: the annual blooming of the W. E. Upjohn Peony Garden at Nichols Arboretum.

W. E. Upjohn
William E. Upjohn

Dr. W. E. Upjohn received his medical degree from the University of Michigan in 1875, and founded his successful pharmaceutical company in 1886. In his personal life, the doctor had a passion for growing peonies. He amassed a giant collection of the flowery perennials, and would annually open his rural gardens in Kalamazoo County to the public during the bloom season. Assisting with the creation of Upjohn's famed garden was Aubrey Tealdi, landscape design professor and head of the University of Michigan's botanical garden (later renamed the Nichols Arboretum). Upjohn and Tealdi were both active in the American Peony Society, dedicated to promoting the culture, education, science and enjoyment of the genus Pae┼Źnia. Based on their shared love of plants, and the University of Michigan, Upjohn and Tealdi decided to construct a peony garden at Nichols Arboretum. The Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden was officially established in 1922, when W. E. Upjohn gifted divisions of his peony collection to the university.

After one hundred years of growth, in 2022, the University of Michigan peony garden was considered the largest collection of antique and heirloom herbaceous peonies in North America. Upjohn family members donated $2 million to the University of Michigan, and the garden was officially renamed the W. E. Upjohn Peony Garden at Nichols Arboretum. Each year more than 10,000 blossoms open in pinks, reds, and whites, and the space becomes a pilgrimage destination in the city of Ann Arbor. Thousand of visitors immerse themselves in the garden, hoping to catch that perfect moment of peak bloom. The elusiveness of those two weeks of fantastic color makes the appeal even stronger, and the work of W. E. Upjohn and Aubrey Tealdi stands as a city treasure.

Peony Garden
Visitors stroll the Nichols Arboretum Peony Garden, Ann Arbor News, June 1940
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Ann Arbor District Library
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Ann Arbor 200 release #64
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