Plant of the Week: Magnolia sinensis

The magnolias were among the first of flowering trees, and in many respects they remain first for the beauty and scent of their flowers. There are three species with dangling flowers – sinensis, wilsonii, and sieboldii – and these are especially beautiful and especially scented.

It is easy to see why sieboldii remains rare in gardens, because the flowers never quite open to reveal the wonderful dark crimson boss that the others show. But I’m not so clear as to why wilsonii is much commoner in British gardens than sinensis, given that the latter is if anything even more beautiful and fragrant. To be honest it is hard to tell them apart, and neither is anything like as often seen as it should be. If you have any sort of bank which will support a small tree, plant one of these at the top of it. When it comes into flower (usually later in May) people will gather beneath it in wonder.