In bloom this week: Magical Magnolia
The perfect showstopper tree for every plot, Leonie Cornelius writes how she has long been under the spell of the magnolia
The first time I came across a magnolia tree was as a child in my neighbour's garden. On a rural road, a true plantsman had created a haven of beauty. Each cleverly separated space in the garden was like a little room filled with it's own type of wonder. Sculptures hung out of giant trees underplanted with ferns, dangerously spiky stems surrounded us like a fairytale scene, and small ponds were filled to the brim with tadpoles.
The most fascinating part of this garden though - which I later found out was the passionate result of true plant knowledge and experience - were the trees. I had never seen such perfectly twisted mature blood red Acers and awesomely gigantic monkey puzzle trees before. The true star of this garden, however, was the magnolia.
Magnolias are elegantly shaped trees many of which bear striking flowers before the leaves even start to show. In spring, before any of the lovingly-planted perennials started to shine, the divinely fluffy, goblet-shaped flowers of the saucer magnolia (Magnolia x Soulangeana) delighted me no end. I was silently awed by the show-stopping beauty of the flowering tree. Ducking low I would hide in the most magical place, feeling like a princess surrounded by masses colour and the delicate scent of the tree.
This magnolia in my neighbour's garden was placed in the perfect spot. Sheltered from strong winds beside an ivy-covered, stone garage the tree was given the perfect conditions for growing, and with the right soil this tree is amazingly floriferous.
Magnolia trees like well-drained, moist, acidic soil and a sheltered spot in the garden. Where the magical tree in this garden was a stunning 6-metre specimen, the magnolia 'Susan' (pictured here) is a lovely compact tree of about 4 metres height and 3 metres spread. This makes it perfect for a smaller garden, and a brilliant addition to any space.
Once established and given the correct soil, these trees are incredibly easy to care for and yet so rewarding. They simply need to have any broken, diseased or crossing branches trimmed and plenty of peat compost applied to their base.
Every garden should have a showy yet elegant tree or shrub like a magnolia that brings a little bit of fairytale to it.