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.

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23 thoughts on “Magnolia × veitchii ‘Peter Veitch’

  1. Thanks for that post Dan. I love magnolias , have four in my garden. They are magnolia soulangeana “Susan”, magnolia soulangeana “Wine Light”, an acuminata x loebneri hybrid “Maxine Merill” with small yellow flowers and a dwarf hybrid of magnolia stellata. The last one grows in a large pot, the other three in the garden . The photos taken with your “professional DSLR” are great – a real balm to my eyes 🙂

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  2. A blue sky is essential for photographing those high blossoms and you were fortunate to have such good conditions. I was revisiting photographs taken at Caerhays some time back and it really is a very enjoyable garden to visit – now, not a patch on Mount Congreve in Waterford. While Caerhays boasts of a handful of M. campbellii, for example, there are almost 200 at Mount Congreve. You’ll have to come visit.

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  3. The souvenir shops down here in the South West sell a poster saying This House Runs On Cornish Time and your comment on the three long train journeys reminded me of it! Does the magical kingdom have its own time I wonder? We are only in South Devon but it is nearly three hours down to St Ives. Friends come in the summer and are keen to go to the Eden Project- they are amazed when we tell them it is five hours for the round trip! But the magnolias are just beautiful and now that I know they have been pollinated by beetles since prehistoric times, well what’s not to love? 😊

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  4. They are gorgeous aren’t they? Backed by a blue sky and white fluffy clouds! I must visit Caerhays, but having injured my back today (sciatica) doing a tiny bit of weeding (!) I won’t be going for a few days.

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    1. I’m very sorry to hear that. I hope you feel much better soon. There is still a lot to come at Caerhays, so even if you leave it for 10 days you should see a fine display. Many plants were only just getting going and we only had time to see about a third of the garden. They really are packing a lot of new plants in, which is marvellous. Dan

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      1. It is an annoying injury, happens every now and then and very painful. Just took delivery of umpteen new perennials and herbs: they’ll have to remain in their pots for now!

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  5. Gorgeous rose pinks contrast with brilliant azure. In the third shot, I noticed a rather tall straight limb point up from a graceful lateral branch. That one should have been pruned off long ago! Now, I wonder, can it be removed, cut way back, and rooted for another tree? What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Magnolias do have a tendency to produce strong, vertical ‘water shoots’ after pruning or storm damage. I guess this branch would be very difficult to get at, and that more water shoots might follow. The bigger magnolias also have a much more vertical frame, not like the rounded or ovoid M. x soulangeana that we see in gardens.

      I don’t think there’s any likelihood it could be rooted from such a large branch as the tissue would be too woody and there would simply be too much plant to feed and water.

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  6. Mr TT and I visited Caerhays on 25th March 2017 when a Magnolia sargentiana var. Robusta looked especially magnificent. Last weekend we were ar Arlington Court, some lovely magnolias there but we also had the gusty spells which made photography tricky. Your photos are brilliant.

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  7. Our Magnolias are winding down here in northern California, most of them being various types of Magnolia soulangeana. They are among the first plants to signal the onset of spring, along with the Narcissus. Your photos are grand !

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  8. Today was grey and a bit drizzly but we went to Lanhydrock. Gorgeous magnolias and we got a little hint of brightness to illuminate their beauty. We are waiting for a ‘blue skies’ day to revisit Caerhays.

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  9. We grew magnolias back in the 1990s, but discontinued them because they never became popular here. They would be fine if their turnover was more efficient. The problem with minimal turnover is that they are so perishable. After they reach maturity, they really need to go to their new home. They do not like to stay canned for long.

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