The magnolia is one of our most popular garden shrubs. Magnolia stellata is visible in front gardens across the country – I planted one for my mother a few years ago – and the pink tinged goblet flowers of Magnolia soulangeana are one of the sure fire signs of approaching summer.
However, nobody can really say reliably when they will flower as it depends so much on the weather. I remember one particular Magnolia which was on the school run when my children were small. One day it was covered in flowers backlit by a clear and sparkling blue sky, the next day all those proud petals had turned to brown mush because of a sharp late frost. Life, and particularly nature, can be so unreliable.
This year the RHS – in collaboration with the Great Gardens of Cornwall – is have the magnolian (not sure if that is a real word but I like its style) equivalent of the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch. What they are asking is for people to note when Magnolia campbellii opens so that they can have an idea of flowering times all across the country – citizen science at work.
This particular Magnolia is a prince with flowers as big as small sombreros (about 30cm across) with languid petals and a pink as chirpy as a baby’s earlobe.
So, if you have (or know the location of) a M.campbellii then click here and fill in the very simple form. If you are in parts of Cornwall you may already be too late.
If you are in Sussex then go frequently to Borde Hill Gardens for some seriously good magnolias, there will be at least one flowering until the summer.