New Online Program: "Peonies in Bloom"

Follow along with our guide to crafting your own imperial garden at home and make your own larger-than-life blooms!

If you walked through the streets of Edmonton or wandered through the University of Alberta campus this summer, you probably noticed the stunning peony blooms that show up every May and June in gardens across the city. As a hardy perennial that can withstand cold winters and live for up to a century1, peonies are a popular choice for local gardeners looking to add colour and vibrance to their flower beds. 

Although peony season in Alberta is quickly coming to a close, you can continue to enjoy the beauty of peonies year-round with the virtual exhibition Peonies in Bloom from the U of A Museums’ Mactaggart Art Collection. This exhibition features a selection of art and textiles from the Qing Dynasty  (1644-1912) that demonstrate the significance of the peony flower in Chinese material culture. Peonies — the “King of Flowers” — have been a symbol of prosperity, beauty, and nobility in Chinese culture for thousands of years, used by artisans as inspiration for their paintings, weavings, and embroidery. 

We were inspired by the classic appearance of peony blooms in the imperial garden to create a do-it-yourself guide to making your own paper peonies at home. These paper flowers are reminiscent of the construction of kesi textiles, which are recognizable by small ‘cuts’ contouring the weft-yarn designs. This beautiful effect makes floral motifs seem to leap out of the woven textile’s surface, bound only by the raw silk warp yarns that make up the ground fabric. Follow along with our guide to crafting your own imperial garden at home and make your own larger-than-life blooms! 

Still can’t get enough of peony season? Sign up for the U of A Museums newsletter to be the first to know about upcoming public programs based on the Peonies in Bloom online exhibition. As well, the U of A Botanic Gardens has a considerable collection of both herbaceous and tree species of peonies, including rare cultivars donated to the U of A by St. Lucian horticulturist Cyril M. Clarke.2 Visit soon for the opportunity to catch the last late blooms of summer!


  1. Sproule, R. (n.d.). The magic of peonies. Salisbury Greenhouse. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from 
  2. Merriam, D. (2010, April 17). The historic Clarke peony collection at the Devonian Botanic Garden. Canadian Peony Society. Retrieved July 21, 2022, from