Yes, I know it’s long past magnolia season but I thought I’d just recall for everyone just how lovely these trees are. My excuse is that I’ve been having a bit of a magnolia fest this year, as not only did I get to write a whole article about them which included talking to some of the country’s best growers and enthusiasts but also got to see the National Collection down in Caerhays which got me totally smitten – especially this fine specimen.
Well, just a few days after I got back from Cornwall I was over at Kew on another journalistic jaunt (I do love my job) and while wandering back from doing my interview, went to have a look at the magnolias. They’d been rather clobbered by frost, unfortunately – occupational hazard if you’re a magnolia – but there was still enough there to make me swoon.
This one was amazing (and this pic is now my desktop – VP take note, I’ve shown you mine now too!). This is M. ‘Phelan Bright’, and these flowers are 10″ across. Pretty amazing anyway, but even more so when you consider the tree is only 3 years old (some magnolias can take up to 20 years to flower).
Sadly this lovely thing was just about the only flower on the whole tree not reduced to brown and tattered ribbons by frost. Made it all the more special that this one survived. This is M. heptapita ‘Yulan’ – I’d never heard of the species, but the flower colour was the purest white of the lot.
Magnolias aren’t often praised for anything except their flowers, but the buds are just gorgeous (fuzzy brown nutkins you can’t help but stroke) and the leaves are often spectacular too. None more so than the leaves of M. grandiflora – it’s evergreen and as you can see has lush, almost tropical foliage.
I love magnolias for their branch structure and their habit of flowering before the leaves come out – yes, it exposes them to frost, but it also shows you how spectacular pure white flowers against the stark outline of a tree trunk can be. This one is M. x veitchii ‘Alba’.
Note to self: plant another magnolia. I only have M. stellata but every time it comes out in my front garden it looks more spectacular and I promise myself I’ll get another one soon.