We’ve been noticing how fantastic the magnolias have looked this spring in Grounds and Gardens.

A swift count up and we realise we actually have a surprising eight varieties on site — ranging from the bright pink ‘Star Wars’ recently planted in our small arboretum to the graceful and very pretty white M. kobus, planted in 1966. It’s now a very impressive specimen tree in East Court!

Magnolias in the arboretum.

Magnolia ‘Star Wars’.

Magnolia kobus.

Magnolia kobus.

Magnolias are one of the very earliest of the flowering plants and according to the Royal Horticultural Society in over 100 million years they have undergone very little evolutionary change. Their simple waxy petals are well suited for crawling beetles — the early pollinators — to travel from flower to flower pollinating as they go. Generally, they grow best in woodland conditions like our arboretum with fertile, moist soil. Apparently, there are around 125 species of deciduous and evergreen magnolias and us gardeners grow them for their stunning flowers and their longlastingness! And they have wonderful seed pods too!

As well as the fantastically coloured ‘Star Wars’ in the arboretum we also have the more delicately pink M. ‘Leonard Messel’ and the more purpley red M. ‘Susan’ all planted in 2014. In 2017 we added the stunning M. ‘Merrill’ and the very popular M. x soulangeana.

Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’.

Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’.

Our tallest magnolia is the very huge evergreen M. grandiflora that dominates the east wall in the Masters Garden. It was donated in 1963 by the SCR and the flowers are absolutely stunning if you manage to see one when it flowers later in the year!

M. grandiflora

Last but not least and flowering for the very first time in our lovely new Xiaotian Fu garden is Magnolia stellata. We have three small multi-stemmed specimens which we planted last year in our small woodland border alongside the Amelanchier lamarckii and Corylus avellana ‘Zellernus’. They are really easy to go and see and are looking very pretty at the moment.

Magnolia stellata

The magnolias are in their final throes of flowering – making way for the magnificent cherries. We have really appreciated their wonderful blooms this year at Churchill and who knows maybe we will have a few more to talk about this time next year!

— Grounds and Gardens

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