Trewidden, Cornwall: Anything But Magnolia

It’s been a cruel winter for spring flowering shrubs and trees. Today at Trewidden in Cornwall we witnessed the impact of subzero temperatures and six inches of snow on gardens that rarely experience such harshness. Rhodendron buds and tree fern fronds stood blackened and lifeless against a benign blue sky. Yet beneath the burnt and scuttled shoots rose carpets of bluebells and pale pink erythroniums, reminding us that all is not lost.

Trewidden is one of Cornwall’s oldest and most established gardens, home to countless champion trees and over 300 varieties of camellia. Despite the savage start to 2018, the garden’s largest magnolia, a 98 year old Magnolia x veitchii ‘Peter Veitch’, is now in bloom. Magnolia x veitchii is a hybrid created in 1907 by Peter Veitch at his famous nursery in Exeter. Its exquisite, pink-flushed, goblet-shaped flowers are the result of Veitch’s attempt to create a magnolia as beautiful as its parents; hardier and with an extended blooming season. To create this hybrid, Veitch crossed Magnolia denudata with Magnolia campbellii. The result was the first recorded hybrid of M. campbellii and a tree that exhibited the best traits of both parents – the large pink flowers of Magnolia campbellii with the upright tepals and almost pure-white flowers of Magnolia denudata. Other improvements were the upright growth habit of M. campbellii combined with an earlier and longer bloom season. A further sibling hybrid from that cross, Magnolia x veitchii ‘Isca’, grows lower down the garden at Trewidden and bears pure white flowers. It is also magnificent.

Branching extravagantly from the base, Magnolia x veitchii ‘Peter Veitch’ reaches to the sky in every direction, filling the air with dark, contorted branches tipped with chalices of pale pink. The effect is beautiful, uplifting, other-worldly. We spurn magnolia, a bland off-white paint colour associated with cheap makeovers on unsaleable houses. The reality is that magnolias are anything but dull or ordinary. Magnolias are fine, vigorous, majestic trees that send their exquisite flowers to flirt with the heavens. Their flowers are pink, blush, cream, white, puce or yellow, but never, ever, magnolia. TFG.

Trewidden Garden is open 10.30am to 5.30pm daily, and also has one of the oldest and most impressive stands of tree ferns in the Northern Hemisphere. You will find yourself lost among some of Britain’s finest and most exotic trees, so do pay a visit.

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17 thoughts on “Trewidden, Cornwall: Anything But Magnolia

  1. Gorgeous! clearly had more success then me. Maybe he was not dealing with plague proportion bunnies that seem have taken a particular liking to mine and attack them everytime I have planted them. Beautiful pics Dan.

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  2. Lucky you to be in Cornwall, grey and wet again in Thanet today, not the best garden visiting weather. Meanwhile I shall wait until the summer and look forward to seeing a magnolia Magnolia in your garden! Other than grandiflora, wilsonii and kobus are there any others we can grow on alkaline solis? Happy holidays.

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  3. You hare having a great weekend Dan. Sun shining and hardly any wind! I am going to leave the garden visits for another week in the hope that the flowers have a chance to bloom with the warmth. Now remember NOT to fill the car with plants that you have no space for!!

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  4. There is a massive magnolia tree downtown near the college campus near where we live. Every year I’m totally infatuated with it and envious of its owners. It does nothing to dim my wish for one of my own, I just have no idea where to put something that will get so massive!

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  5. We grew magnolias for many years from about 1993 to only a few years ago. I do not remember all the cutivars and their personalities. We had Magnolia lennei ‘Alba’ with very nice white flowers, but the branch structure was a mess. We had only three cultivars of star magnolia, and only one did well here. I suppose it sounds like I only remember their bad qualities.

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  6. Hi from London, Ontario.
    I accidentally posted my email in a comment on your most recent post from the
    Cornwall event. Would you be so kind as to delete my comment (and in turn my email address).
    So sorry for this!
    Jann of Canada

    Liked by 1 person

  7. How interesting, and what a coincidence since I’ve just written a new blog on five magnolia species here in the United States (Invitation to the Garden), to be published Friday. May I add a reference to your post, “Anything but Magnolia”? I’m sure my gardening readers will be interested in it. ~ Jo

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    1. Of course you may! What a lovely blog you have started. I’ve already had a read of your magnolia post which is very interesting. Here it’s the Magnolia x soulangeana that we think of as the ‘normal’ magnolia with your southern magnolias being less known and grown. Probably because our climate is a little cool for the latter. Dan

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