Magnolias have made it!

The recent week of warm days has been exciting in the garden. Because, with the warm days brought by the high pressure system, have come cold nights as the clear skies allow all that welcome warmth to radiate out into space. Frosts have been daily but not to severe, with the grass white at dawn but quickly melting as the sun touches it. A few of my magnolias, planted as unusual acts of optimism, have been bravely swelling their buds this week and this morning showed me how lovely they can be, just before the cold blast we have been promised for the rest of the week.

Best of all, there are half a dozen flowers open on Magnollia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’. This was planted as a small, bushy plant barely 40cm high four years ago and this is the first year it has bloomed. It has grown pretty well, though it is only 70cm high, but well-branched, and I was excited to see about 20 flower buds during winter. This is possibly my favourite magnolia, which is just as well since it is also fairly easy, and one of the first I ever really admired. There was a rounded, bushy specimen at Kew when I was a student, not far from the ‘T Range’ which shows how long ago it was! In spring it was covered in pink, fragrant, starry blooms.

My plant is just as lovely and the petals are slightly wiggly as they start to expand. They straighten as they mature and the petals are deep pink on the exterior and much paler inside. Magnolia x loebneri is the name given to hybrids of M. kobus and the similar but more bushy M. stellata. The flowers are usually white and the cross was first made by Max Löbner of Pillnitz, Germany, just before World War I but it has been repeated and at Nymans in Sussex M. kobus was crossed with M. stellata f. rosea. The result was this marvellous pink magnolia. It has an RHS AGM and is a multi-stemmed large shrub or small tree that will reach about 4m high. As such it is exciting to think that it may become a spectacular large show of pink but is manageable in small gardens too. The buds tend to open over an extended period so if some flowers are frosted there are usually more to open.

Magnolia ‘Heaven Scent’ has done well too, with 20 or more buds. The first of these have opened perfectly and it is now almost a tree, with the upper flowers too tall to sniff! Good things come to those that wait!


One Comment on “Magnolias have made it!”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    March 29, 2022 at 5:55 pm #

    It’s always great when the magnolias scrape past the frosts. We have had no damage at all this year but we were in Lismore Castle last Friday week and whole trees were completely denuded of blooms by frost. M. x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ is a beautiful thing!

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