I absolutely adore magnolias. More than anything else I can think of, the sight of magnolia buds swelling and bursting into bloom is a sure sign that winter is at an end.
So here is my celebration of magnolias, I’m not going to tell you how to grow them, or list the different varieties, instead, I’d like you to join me in photo rich tribute to one of my favourite flowers, and the joy that they and the season of spring brings, of warmer, brighter days ahead and a sense of having made it through the depths of winter.
This is the magnolia that we had in the front garden of our previous house. It was a tiny, unkempt scrap of a thing when we moved in, overgrown with weeds at the base and it’s energy sapped by low lying damaged branches.
I was brave with this one, it was definitely kill or cure as I freed the trunk from the marauding weeds, trimmed off all but they healthiest branches, dug in a little compost and crossed my fingers. The following spring, we had a few flowers, so I could breath, I hadn’t killed it, phew!
As the sun warmed our little magnolia’s branches, it grew stronger and over the next couple of years I was able to shape it into a delightful round bush and it rewarded us with more blooms each year. The spring before we moved, it was the most magnificent I’d ever seen it, full of blooms which were miraculously undamaged by either frost or rain.
The variety we had, Magnolia stellata, or star magnolia is a classic choice for a small town garden. This has widely spaced, spidery petalled flowers and makes a compact plant, shrubbier than most magnolias. Its flowers appear earlier than most, but they are more resistant to frost, so they often look good for most of spring. All magnolias have gorgeous buds – like furry mice sitting on the branches – and these are easily seen on any of the stellata forms.
Magnolia Red Lion
If you have a larger garden and you are looking for a medium-sized tree, then Magnolia ‘Red Lion’ is an excellent choice. This has huge flowers in the classic magnolia tulip shape, pink with the outer petals dusted and feathered deep-pink on cream. Some of the flowers are much darker with no hint of cream.
In the sunlight, these gorgeous blooms glow as if full of lighted candles.
As buds, they remind me of hot-air balloons just waiting for that final fill of gas before lifting off.
The flower stems comes straight out from the branches, holding all the tulip style blooms very upright. Ladybirds love over wintering in the buds.
So there we have it, much as I love to see early snowdrops and swathes of golden daffodils, the real jewel in the crown of spring blooms for me is the magnolia. It’s a fabulous uplifting showstopper, a real gardener’s delight.