This week the first magnolias burst forth, coaxed out by a few days of glorious sunshine. One of the earliest to make an entrance has been the grand old Magnolia campbellii on the Lily Terrace, whose gorgeous fat, pink blooms have stopped visitors in their tracks and set cameras clicking. It heralds the start of many months of magnolias here at Bodnant Garden. In fact the latest, Magnolia grandiflora with its huge, saucer-like ivory flowers, blossoms in autumn.
Bodnant Garden has a National Collection of magnolias which go back a long way. Many of them are 100 years old or more, such as the grand Magnolia veitchii x ‘Peter Veitch’ which towers over the Laburnum Arch and is a landmark for visitors approaching the garden.
During the early 1900s the garden’s owner, the second Lord Aberconway Henry McLaren, was an avid plantsman who later became president of the Royal Horticultural Society. He sponsored expeditions by plant hunters to bring back seeds and plants from Asia and South America – not just magnolias but rhododendrons, embothrium and eucryphia, of which we also now have National Collections.
The Magnolia campbellii mollicomata (to give it its full name) on the Lily Terrace was brought here by plant hunter George Forrest. When ‘exotic’ new plants arrived in Britain, nobody knew for sure how hardy they would be, so to protect them they were often planted against walls. It turned out that many were pretty hardy and the magnolia now has its head well above the top of the wall. When the famous Veitch nurseries closed in the early 1900s Lord Aberconway bought all the remaining stock – and commissioned a whole train to deliver all the plants to Bodnant Garden! Now that’s what you call leaves on the line.
Some of the Chinese magnolias you can see at Bodnant garden include some of the species seen here…there are many more cultivars to be enjoyed too:
Left: Magnolia dawsoniana – A deciduous tree, discovered in 1869 by Père Armand and introduced to Britain by Ernest Wilson.
Right: Magnolia delavayi – An evergreen magnolia, named after missionary Father Delavay who discovered it.
LEFT: Magnolia denudata – The official flower of Shanghai, a small, deciduous magnolia grown in Buddhist temple gardens since 600 AD.
RIGHT: Magnolia sargentiana – Another deciduous magnolia, this large type is fairly uncommon in cultivation and threatened by habitat loss.
LEFT: Magnolia sprengeri – A small deciduous magnolia.
RIGHT: Magnolia globosa – The Globe Magnolia is deciduous and closely related to M. wilsonii and M. sieboldii, but is rare in cultivation.
LEFT: Magnolia stellata – Sometimes called the star magnolia, this slow-growing shrub is native to Japan.
RIGHT: Couldn’t resist…that Magnolia campbellii again!
Come and see the magnolias at Bodnant Garden over the next couple of months when they’re at their finest. It’s a sight not to be missed.