Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter.
The severe cold spell in March—which followed an extraordinarily warm February—damaged the swelling buds of many of our spring-flowering magnolias. The result has been a rather scattershot display this month.
This old cultivar of the saucer magnolia (Magnolia ×soulangeana ‘Lennei’) is one of the last to bloom and, perhaps because of this, seems to have escaped the worst of the frost injury. Its purple-pink flowers are opening now.
You will find ours blooming as you come up the pathway leading from the Herb Garden up to the Aquatic Garden and the Shade Border beyond.
The saucer magnolia is a hybrid between the Yulan magnolia (Magnolia denudata) and the lily magnolia (M. liliiflora), raised by the Chevalier Étienne Soulange-Bodin, in Fromont, France, in 1826. The selection ‘Lennei’ was made in Italy about 20 years later.
The Chevalier had been a cavalry officer in Napoleon’s army and is reported to have said, after the Battle of Waterloo, that “It would have been better for both parties that they stayed at home to grow their cabbages.” He devoted his retirement to horticulture.