Marie Staunton: Heavenly Magnolias
The delicate flowers are enough to stop you in your tracks, saysMarie Staunton, but make sure you look after this tree properly
There is something about the Magnolia soulangeana that causes people to stop in their tracks and take a moment to wonder at the beauty of it.
Flowering in April, its goblet-shaped flowers in flushed pink take on an almost hand-painted effect and, set against a backdrop of a clear-blue April sky, would melt any heart.
April is the time to see Magnolias -- or tulip trees as they are also known -- at their very best and it's also the best time to plant them, so should you be looking for the perfect Mother's Day present, put this at the top of your list.
They come in all shapes and sizes, and there is indeed one for everyone, the smaller of them being M stellata, which flowers in late March or early April. This one has pretty little star-shaped flowers.
Always give them space, as they flower so beautifully. They require shelter and a little care when planting, but they really are an easy plant to look after.
If you have a few hours to spare, head into the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin and see the collection of Magnolias. If you happen to be taking the number 19 bus home, look to your left along Botanic Road at probably the finest example of a Magnolia there is to be seen in a suburban garden.
All trees and shrubs require the same attention when it comes to planting -- good preparation is key and, considering that you have invested your hard-earned cash in a plant, give it a nice start and you will be generously rewarded in the years to come.
Always give your tree a nice drink of water prior to planting, dig a hole at least twice the width and depth of the pot that it came in, pop it in the planting hole and back fill with a mix of a good compost and soil, but -- and this is the important part --only up to the original mark of the soil on the stem of the plant.
If you bury it too deep, it will not be happy. In fact, it's better to be a little shy of the original soil mark as it will settle a little after planting. The reason for digging out to double the depth is so the soil will be loosened and the roots will penetrate the earth easier, allowing the plant to anchor itself faster.
If it proves to be a dry summer (I can hear you laughing already) water on a regular basis so that it gets the best of starts. Magnolias respond very well to a mulch of well- rotted horse manure, so see if you can get your mitts on some.
We have a polytunnel in our garden which also doubles up as a place to have a sit down and have a cuppa, and a very important part of gardening is the cup of tea and a HobNob.
Now, my hens have decided that it's the perfect place for them too -- they love nothing better than mucking around in the soil and giving themselves a nice old dust bath.
Mind you, they are shortly to be evicted and given another spot to do their ablutions as I need to get ready for tomato season. Believe me, there is nothing better to get the tastebuds tingling than a homegrown sun-ripened tomato.