Spring has been wonderfully warm, with a stubborn high pressure system sitting over the south of the UK we’ve enjoyed long sunny days with gloriously blue skies and little white fluffy clouds – a scene not expected for a couple of months. The nights have been cold but thankfully there has not been frost. The unimpeded sun has brought on a whole range of spring flowering plants, from wood anemones to forsythia.
In the gardens around us are a host of spectacular specimen magnolias. All are mature and some are unusually large, my drive to work passes several and their bare branches tipped with pink and white goblet flowers make for a jaw-dropping sight. I’ve been looking on in wonder and envy as back in my garden there wasn’t much sign of our own young magnolia wanting to join the display. Our own magnolia flower buds stayed resolutely closed and there seemed to be very few of them. It felt like I was missing the party.
A string of warm sunny days finally convinced the buds to shed their outer casings to reveal the pink and white flowers within. There followed a few more days waiting for those flowers to unfold and open out.
It was only when I was around the magnolia, pruning the rose next to it that I saw the reason why ours was delayed in flowering so much. The magnolias around us are Magnolia x Soulangeana while the label on ours is Magnolia “Heaven Scent”. I had forgotten the variety we bought and planted when we first made the border now known as “Magnolia Hill”. This variety must naturally open later, with the extra couple of weeks delay greatly reducing the risk of damage to the display from unexpected frost.
Our Magnolia might be late to the party, but it’s a special variety. Mainly pink on the outside and white with blush pink on the inside the detail in these flowers is simple, yet sophisticated, the flower form is elegant and graceful and – as the name suggests – the scent is heavenly though hard to describe, its like a fresh, floral, citrus scent; it’s not strong and you do have to wait for the flowers to warm up before putting your nose in, but scent in a Magnolia is rare and I can feel smug that we have a beautifully fragrant one.
Unfortunately, only a grand total of three flowers were produced this year, but the tree has only been in the ground a few years, so I guess I can excuse the mean numbers. Magnolias are so transient though, in a week or two, these three flowers will be a memory and the magnolia will fade into the background as the plants and shrubs surrounding it flower and steal the attention. Meanwhile this little magnolia will steadily keep growing, year after year, becoming stronger, larger and more floriferous until it eventually joins the ranks of the other specimen magnolias around it.