On the hunt for magnolias

Laura

Every area of RHS Wisley garden in Surrey has  ‘its moment’ some time in the year so it was with great intent that I set off last Sunday to take my annual tour around Battleston Hill, principally to look at magnolias.

Unsurprisingly for this spring, it was wet, but en route to Battleston Hill there were some enchanting cameos of little groups of plants glistening with raindrops, such as these charming little sanguinarias nestling by the wall beneath the alpine glasshouses.

Sanguinaria canadensis hunkering down in the rain

And then these trilliums with their leaves washed clean.

Trillium chloropetalum after its morning shower

We entered Battleston Hill from the top, through the collection of Mediterranean and subtropical plants where some truly impressive eucalyptus frame the path

Eucalyptus

Starting with the lower slopes nearest the A3 (thank goodness the RHS successfully fought off a planning proposal to remove the tree belt protecting the gardens from the roar of the traffic here) there were several specimens of the simple and unrefined species Magnolia kobus

Magnolia kobus – simple but stunning

Magnolia kobus probably grows into too big a tree to be accommodated in the average garden, but if you are lucky enough to have some wilder areas, where a tree can be viewed from a distance it creates a welcoming sight in early spring.

Magnolia kobus  ‘Pickards Stardust’ with more upright petals than the plain species

Moving back up and over the hill the magnolia specimens became ever more flamboyant, but again of a size that might prove challenging for smaller gardens.

Magnolia campbellii Darjeeling x cylindrica

However as we returned to main path running down towards the double herbaceous borders there were two more compacts specimens that might be more appropriate. The first was a hybrid, Magnolia ‘Vulcan’ which was bred in New Zealand, and produces large, dark coloured flowers on a relatively small tree.

Magnolia ‘Vulcan’ just breaking bud

The second was a variety of the commonly seen Magnolia stellata, whose star-like petals are normally pure white but in this variety ‘Jane Platt’ are a delicate shell pink.

Magnolia stellata ‘Jane Platt’

Magnolias were not the only attraction on Battleston Hill, interspersed were many other early flowering woodland shrubs such as stachyurus and corylopsis 

Corylopsis glabrescens var. gotoanna

And the fresh young leaves of acers

Fresh young leaves of Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’

Of course there were also a host of camellias and rhododendrons, but these were so numerous and diverse that they will need a whole blog of their own – perhaps when I take my annual trip round Battleson Hill next spring, but just as a taster I will leave you with one particularly striking specimen.

Rhododendron ‘Rothenburg’

 

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