The first time I came across a Magnolia tree was as a child in my neighbours garden in County Leitrim. On a rural road, miles from the nearest town, a true plantsman had created a haven of beauty. To us as children finding this place seemed like we had stumbled upon a secret garden. Each cleverly separated space in the garden was like a little garden room and each was filled with it’s own type of wonder. Sculptures hung out of giant trees underplanted with ferns, spires of impossibly tall blooms with dangerously spiky stems surrounded us like a fairytale scene and some small ponds were filled to the brim with tadpoles, making it impossible to see the bottom.
The most fascinating part of this garden though, which I later found out was the passionate result of true plant knowledge and years of experience, were the trees. I had never seen such perfectly twisted mature blood red Acers and awesomely gigantic monkey puzzle trees before. The true star of this garden for me though was the Magnolia. Magnolias are elegantly shaped trees many of which bear striking flowers before the leaves even start to show. For me this tree is one of the most stunning examples of a focal point tree. In spring, before any of the lovingly planted perennials started to shine, the divinely fluffy goblet shaped flowers of the Magnolia x soulangeana delighted me no end. Running, giggling in a game of hide and seek, I would stop suddenly, silently awed by the show-stopping beauty of the flowering tree. Ducking low I would hide in the most magical place, feeling like a princess surrounded by masses colour and the delicate scent of the tree.
This Magnolia in my neighbour’s garden was placed in the perfect spot. Sheltered from strong winds beside an ivy-covered, stone garage the tree was given the perfect conditions for growing, and with the right soil this tree is amazingly floriferous. Magnolia trees like well-drained, moist, acidic soil and a sheltered spot in the garden. Where the magical tree in this garden was a stunning 6 metre specimen, the Magnolia ‘Susan’ I have chosen here is a lovely compact tree of about 4 metres height and 3 metres spread. This makes it perfect for a smaller garden, and a brilliant addition to any space. Once established, and given the correct soil, these trees are incredibly easy to care for and yet so rewarding. They simply need to have any broken, diseased or crossing branches trimmed and plenty of peat compost applied to their base.
Thinking back now on the effect this tree had on me, I truly believe every garden should have a star shrub or tree such as the Magnolia. A showy yet subtly, elegant tree that brings a little bit of fairytale to any garden.
The beautiful Magnolia tree was bought at Homeland Sligo
Speaking of secret gardens, Secret gardens of Sligo is lovely idea where private garden owners open their gardens to the public during some days in the summer months. All donations go to charity and it’s a wonderful opportunity to see some amazing private gardens. For more go to: secretgardensofsligo.com