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Plant of the week- Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Etienne Soulange-Bodin

magnolia x soulangeana6 Plant of the week  Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Etienne Soulange Bodin

magnolia x soulangeana2 Plant of the week  Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Etienne Soulange BodinSome plants just walk into Plant of the week without any need of explaining why! With Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Etienne Soulange-Bodin it is certainly indeed one of those plants. Where ever you drive at the moment, town, city or countryside, you will see one of these stunning magnolias, flowering away to the hearts content. If there is a tree in the uk that shouts here’s spring more than Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Etienne Soulange-Bodin I would love to know it

Magnolias as a whole, belong to an ancient group of plants, dating back to the times of the dinosaur, well before bees, when beetles where the main pollinators. This form of magnolia doesn’t date back that far, just to the 1820’s. It was an cavalry officer from Napoleons arm, who after seeing the botanical gardens at places like Vienna, Moscow and Stuttgart during the war, the war indeed left him rather unimpressed to the point of him saying ‘ it would of been better if both parties stayed at home and planted cabbages’! Thankfully for us, he didn’t and after the war, he founded the royal institute of Horticulture near Paris ad it was in this garden in 1820, he crossed magnolia denudata with magnolia liliiflora. The resulting seedling, produced one of the finest magnolias and the one we see everywhere today Magnolia x soulangeana or to give it its correct botanical name Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Etienne Soulange-Bodin. It is possible that natural crosses of these to did happen in Japanese temples, where both are grown for religious reasons but this was the first hybrid between the two plants that happened in Europe.

magnolia x soulangeana6 Plant of the week  Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Etienne Soulange BodinOne of the things that makes Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Etienne Soulange-Bodin such a good tree for peoples gardens is the fact it is slow growing, height after 20 years can be up to 3-4m high and wide and its takes up to 50yrs to reach its full 6m height and width. The leaves open just after the plant has finished flowering and are a oval shaped, mid green in colour around 20cm long, they do go a yellow colour in the autumn but it isn’t one of the best for autumn colour. It is the big open white flowers, flushed with purple at the base, this plant is mainly grown for. These flowers can be tolerant of a certain amount of frost.

c94bdeb1 e564 46f3 91f0 3a3097525d50 686 0000003ce598e954 file Plant of the week  Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Etienne Soulange Bodin

It is also very good at growing in a wide range of soils, indeed it will happy grow in all, from clay to sand, from acidic to alkaline and tolerates thin soils over chalk, unlike most magnolias. Ideally, it should be mulched with some great compost and fed with a good fertiliser like vitax Q4 after flowering, covering the plant to just outside the drip zone but it’s not over important. As a plant, it required very little pruning, thining of crossing branches, removal of deadwood is all that is required, although it can be more heavierly pruned back if required, with no adverse effects. When the wood is cut though, you will get a stunning ginger scent coming from the wood. Pest and disease wise, it’s pretty trouble free, scale insects take a like to it, so it’s worth watching out for them, honey fungus will also attack it. Other than that it’s pretty easy.

It can be seen in most streets around the uk and brought from most good Nurseries

20180226 202933 Plant of the week  Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Etienne Soulange Bodin
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Plant of the week-Magnolia campbellii

picture1 Plant of the week Magnolia campbellii
Magnolia campbellii subsp mollicata
This weeks plant of the week is a personally favourite of mine, I can remember as a young man of 20/21 going on a study tour of the gardens of Cornwall, arranged by the head gardener at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens. We went to some stunning gardens, looking around Heligan before it was near full restoration, indeed, I have pictures of the pineapple pits with brambles growing out out, it was so very special seeing the gardens like that. But one sight enthralled me more than anything else, that was seeing for the first time these massive trees, the size of the mighty oaks full of these huge flowers! I still get a spine tingling feeling just thinking about it! The garden in question is certainly one of my favourite gardens in the uk and it is of course Caerhays. I can image the first plant hunters seeing this tree in flower for the first time, seeing it flowering within a forest of rhododendron, towering above them, like the true aristocrat of the  magnolia family and how it must of taken their breathe away, like it did to me all those years ago. Every spring I look forward to seeing these beautiful flowering trees in their full glory.

cambellii1 Plant of the week Magnolia campbellii

Magnolia Campbellii is indeed not a native of this island but comes from the forests of the Himalayas, from Assam, Sikkim, Bhutan and to eastern Nepal where it tends to live 2400-3000m above sea level. The white form was first found in 1838 by a assistant surgeon of the East India company William Griffith but he was beaten into putting his new find into print by the very famous plant hunter sir Joseph Hooker. He found the pink form in 1855 and named it after the political resident based in Darjeeling, Archibald Campbell

The trees can be fast growing in its younger age, sometimes putting on as much as 4ft in one year, it will take many years to get to its full height of over 100ft in the uk. The leaves themselves again are rather massive measuring up to 10inches long by 4inches wide. The humongous flowers can be as much as 20inches wide! The scent is truly delightful, rather delicate but never less very beautiful. If the tree is grown from seed, it can take up to 15 years for the white form to flower and up to 30 years to flower for the pink forms. This time can be reduced if the plant is grafted onto a root stock, normally magnolia campbellii subsp mollicomata, normally down to about 10yrs. The only problem with this queen of the plant world, is that it does flower quite early here in the uk and does tend to get frosted by some late winter frosts.

Magnolia wood is also greatly valued as a light but very strong wood.

Growing wise it needs a good damp very fertile soil that’s slightly on the acidic side. Certainly for the first few years feeding with something like Vitax Q4 fertiliser and well rotten leaf mould or compost would be ideal. Planting wise it’s well worth trying to get a small tree as this will establish much more quickly, planting hole should have a good amount of organic matter added, Vitax Q4 and also mycorrhizal to help to get the plant established. It needs very little pruning at all, just a little formative pruning to remove crossing branches and lower branches. As for pest and diseases, the normal one like honey fungus, phytophthora, slugs, rabbits and deer are the biggest problem here in the uk and again more effected in a early age. More importantly this plant needs space and the the best thing to give it.

There are many forms available to buy but these are the more common forms to buy and plant ‘Alba’ is the white form that is rarely seen, subsp mollicomata is a more pale colour pink picture2 Plant of the week Magnolia campbellii

The places to see these magificent trees are the normal places like Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Wisley Gardens, Kew, Marwood gardens and so many of the beautiful gardens in Cornwall is where it really shines, places like Caerhays, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Trebah, Trengwaiton, i could go there are so many places to enjoy them. to buy Burncose nursery is a great place to try

cambellii Plant of the week Magnolia campbellii