Magnolia × veitchii ‘Peter Veitch’


My ‘proper’ camera, a now rather dated DSLR, has been in a cupboard since September. I know it takes better photographs than an iPhone, but when conditions are less than ideal I just can’t be bothered to lug around a camera and a bag full of lenses.

Fine spells over weekend, combined with an itinerary packed with gorgeous gardens to visit, persuaded me to cart the camera down to Cornwall on a journey that involved three lengthy train rides. It was fantastic to have the services of a zoom lens and a wide-angle lens again, so much so that my iPhone barely left my pocket.

The gardens at Morrab, Tremenheere and Caerhays offered no shortage of wonderful plants and flowers to photograph, however I was sorely challenged by an incessant, gusty wind. (That same wind meant that a fourth garden, Trewidden, was sadly closed for safety reasons.) When one is in company one can’t just stand around waiting for the wind to drop in order to take a photograph, so I had to take my chances when the opportunities arose.

On the whole I was pretty pleased with my snaps, but a collection of shots capturing the champion Magnolia x veitchii ‘Peter Veitch’ at Caerhays made my heart do a little somersault when I reviewed them at home. There is something thrilling and effortlessly artful about a magnolia tree in full bloom. Each blush chalice is perfection, but, en-masse, set high against a blue sky, they become heavenly bodies, as dazzling as the Milky Way on a clear night. I look at my photographs and I am transported back to Bhutan where I saw so many of these magnificent trees growing in the wild. The hybrid Magnolia x veitchii ‘Peter Veitch’ is the result of a cross between Magnolia campbellii and Magnolia denudata made in 1907 by nurseryman Peter Veitch, suggesting that this fine specimen, the largest in the UK, is little over 100 years old. Unless one visits gardens like Caerhays one forgets that magnolias can reach impressive proportions.

As we walked away from the blossom-smothered tree my sister remarked on the absence of bees visiting the flowers. I could not account for this since there were plenty of bumble bees attending the flowers of a nearby corylopsis. The explanation was simple: magnolias evolved before bees did, and so they are pollinated by beetles, which have been around for considerably longer. The tree in my photographs may only have been around for a century, but its ancestors have graced the earth for 95 million years. TFG.