Sitting in the flowering arboretum right now, I realize this is a fantastic year for spring flowering magnolias. This is really good for me since most people will walk around looking up and not down at me and all my brothers and sisters in full bloom. Hopefully the gardeners will do just that.
The glorious display is thanks to a good cold winter. Usually sometime in January or February we have a mild spell, the magnolias jump to conclusions that spring is coming and begin to put out a few flowers. Inevitably, the cold comes again, turning those lovely white flowers to brown mush. When spring really arrives the rest of the magnolia tree flowers beautifully, but some damaged flowers remain as a painful reminder about their goof.
With no real mild spell this year, they didn’t jump the gun. Instead we are treated to trees clothed in white flowers at their best. Leading the charge are star magnolias, a couple Loebner magnolias, and a Yulan magnolia.
The star magnolias near the greenhouse are in full stride, covered in white flowers featuring a dozen or so white petals splayed open to take in the sun’s rays. The cultivar Centennial near the Beautiful Gardens trial bed is probably the fullest tree and the flowers feature a slight pink tint on the outside of each petal.
Toward the center of the arboretum is the Leonard Messel cultivar of the Loebner magnolia. The star-shaped flowers hint at its lineage as a hybrid between the star magnolia and kobus magnolia. The white flowers nicely frame a soft pink center that beckons to early foraging bees. A few feet away a Yulan magnolia offers with a distinctly different look. The creamy white flowers display a warmer tone than the others and the petals keep to themselves a little more, forming a more rounded flower in almost a tulip shape. To the hungry viewer, it looks like a tree covered in scoops of vanilla ice cream.
Other magnolias are starting to warm up with the weather. The deep pink flowers of a tulip magnolia are starting to open up. In a day or two, this tree really hit its stride and is hard to ignore. Some of the other hybrids are starting to open up as well and even the Chinese willowleaf magnolia is offering a preview of white flowers to passers-by.
Magnolias are not the only show in the arboretum though. Golden spike winterhazel shrubs spot the landscape providing a nice counterpoint to white flower trees and dark blue sky. The redbuds are living up to their name at this point. Swelling buds of rich red are just hinting at the pink explosion that will come in the next few weeks. The Chinese michelia, a relative of the magnolias, is blooming right now and sharing a wonderful banana-like fragrance for those who find it hiding near the children’s garden. The Okame cherry is in full bloom. A beautiful pink tree that beckons you from a distance, it really surprises you upon arrival. On a warm day, standing under the tree, you think you hear a chainsaw or weed-eater working in the distance, until you realize the buzzing sound is over your head. This tree is literally humming with bees busy working on the sweet nectar of its flowers. Quite an interesting experience.
So for everyone who has spent months indoors during a cold winter, the wait is over. Come out and see what a show our arboretum has in store for you.