a french garden


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Magnolia grandiflora, a survivor

Last winter was unusually harsh in the Charente –Maritime.  In February the temperatures were under zero for about two weeks and fell as low minus 17 degrees centigrade.

I was resigned to the fact that I would lose a large number of plants unaccustomed to this severe weather.  One of the plants that I had little hope would survive was my Magnolia grandiflora.

9th. February 2012

As the temperature rose I ventured into the garden for damage assessment.  There was ice on the surface of the magnolia leaves which was being rapidly melted by the bright sun.  Not good!  A plant has difficulty accommodating such rapid changes in temperature.

July 2012

To my surprise it has survived unharmed and I have been able to take these photographs  over the last few days.

My Magnolia grandiflora was an early edition to the garden.  I felt it would be an appropriate tree to have in a French garden as I had seen magnificent specimens of old large Magnolias in France.  However, I have now discovered that Magnolias are not natives of Europe but of the southern states of the United States, the only French connection is that they have been named in honour of the French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715)

Opening Magnolia flower

The obvious attraction of the Magnolia grandiflora is its flowers.

The flower opens to release its perfume

An even greater attraction for me is their perfume.

The flower opens revealing the heavy stamens

The perfume is distinctive with a slight citrus hint and appears perfect to attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies.  Another false assumption!  The genus Magnolia evolved long before bees and butterflies had made their appearance and the Magnolia had already forged its pollinator relationship with beetles.  This has never changed over the ensuing millions of years so it is not a tree to attract bees and butterflies into the garden.

Magnolia at the end of the day

The Magnolia flower is short lived and only lasts for a day.  The tree will produce several blossoms at one time, replacing the faded blossoms on a daily basis and the number of flowers produced will depend on the size of the tree.

Fertilised flower forming fruit

The flowers are followed by a candle-shaped seed head but if I see them I snap them off to encourage the tree to produce more flowers and avoid a waste of resources on the part of the tree.

So for me the Magnolia is a very valuable ornamental tree in the garden giving me beautiful perfumed flowers and leaves that stay green and glossy even in the heat of summer.  An addition benefit of Magnolia grandiflora is that it is evergreen and in winter it continues to ornament the garden with its glossy green leaves

Last year was the first year my Magnolia flowered and I was overjoyed with my two blossoms.  This year I have had many more flowers despite the small size of the tree and its trial by ice in the winter.