Wandering through the winding paths of Battleston Hill (RHS Gardens Wisely, Surrey) this first week of June, I wasn’t expecting pristine Magnolia blossom, despite the chilly countenance of Spring setting most flowering calendars out by a week or three. Taking a new path on the lower slopes (the gardeners have been extending the network of paths into fresh areas), a couple of beautiful specimens stood out.
The pristine, cupped, pendant white blooms of Magnolia wilsonii. A spreading tree with the sun backlighting the beautiful waxy flowers with crimson stamens. Big flowers, but shy, hanging beneath the canopy of glossy leaves.
Magnolia ‘Charles Coates’ is an altogether more flamboyant creature, with large saucer-shaped, creamy white flowers (10cm/4″ across) sitting pretty on top of the branches. With between 9 and 12 petals and crimson anthers, the flowers held horizontal or erect, are altogether more showy. They are meant to be fragrant but were all out of reach for me to verify.
A quick google for information on Charles Coates brings up the following from the Missouri Botanical Gardens website, which sounds about right…
‘Charles Coates’ is a hybrid magnolia (M. sieboldii x M. tripetala) which was discovered growing as a seedling at The Royal Botanic Garden at Kew in 1946-1947 by plant propagator Charles F. Coates. This is a deciduous small tree or large rounded shrub which typically matures over time to 12-16′ tall, but may in some cases reach 25′ tall. Fragrant flowers bloom in May-June. Each flower (to 5″ diameter) features 9-12 white petal-like tepals surrounding a center of showy purplish-red stamens. Large, ovate, deep green leaves (each to 10″ long) appear in whorl-like clusters at the branchlet tips. Genus name honors Pierre Magnol, French botanist (1638-1715).