If we're really lucky and in the right place at the right time, there will be a day this month when a perfect blue sky will coincide with the opening of one of the most exquisite flowers in the plant world. Rising out of pointed silver buds to form globes of waxy petals, Magnolia flowers will grace us with their presence and for a short few weeks these epitomes of refined elegance will lift our gardens out of the mundane and into the realms of aristocracy.
They are the most grown up of flowers, neither bright nor particularly cheerful, but calm, serene and understated.
It was the glimpse of a Magnolia soulangeana in full bloom from a bus window on the way to my first job that began my love affair with plants and like many a first love it stayed with me and blossomed over the years to embrace other more exotic species of Magnolia like grandiflora, wilsonii and acuminata.
There are some lovely trees in Monmouth, opposite the Priory and in Powell's Court are two beauties, but strangely for a few years now my affection has centred itself around a particular young Magnolia which I've watched rise steadily from behind the bare brick boundary wall of a small garden. Which named variety it is I'm not sure but the flowers are primrose yellow glowing candles and I know that I shall soon be making any excuse to drive past in the hope of catching them at their best before an almost inevitable late frost blights their perfection.
Being a self confessed plantaholic, I'm usually incapable of restraint and if I really covet a plant, believe it will grow in my garden and can afford its price then that's the deal done, but when it comes to Magnolia it's just not that simple. It seems that my love for them has always been from afar, if I had one of my own at close quarters it might lose some of its allure, familiarity might breed contempt and I couldn't risk that, not with my first love.