Magical March Magnolias

March and magnolias is a combination balanced on a very fine knife edge for there are years when they flourish and perform with a brilliance that can justifiably be described as awesome and others when the blossoms are reduced to a disappointing dirty brown having been hit by a hard March frost. This year has been one of the good years and the display in my local big garden, Mount Congreve, has been exceptionally good – and continues to be good, so worth a visit if you are in the area.

The Herman Dool Walk in Mount Congreve with magnolia trees to either side – Magnolia campbellii, Magnolia sargentiana and Magnolia soulangeana – and below, views which greets the visitor on entering the garden, magnificent magnolias on The Terrace among them the outstanding Magnolia campbellii ‘Werrington’ which has that richer, darker pink flowers.
This view, from a vantage point in the woodland gardens, looks back over some of the magnolias growing below The Terrace.

It was in the 1960s that the gardens at Mount Congreve made a gigantic leap from being one with an excellent selection of magnolia species and cultivars to being probably the outstanding garden in the world in which to see magnolias. In the early 1960s Mr. Herman Dool, who can genuinely be credit with being the co-creator of the gardens along with the owner, Mr. Ambrose Congreve, collected seed from the older established trees, mainly from Magnolia campbellii, germinated and grew them on before planting out a hundred or more in the late 1960s. This planting is now fifty years old, the trees are mature and flowering magnificently each year, and they provide a spectacle which cannot be seen elsewhere in the world.

Some further views of The Herman Dool Walk:

Of course, parallel to the work described above, many other cultivars were introduced from various nurseries – Hilliers in the UK, for example, and from other gardens with outstanding magnolias – Caerhays, in Cornwall, for example – so that the collection at Mount Congreve is now almost unparalleled in the world and is certainly a local and national treasure. I feel very fortunate to live so close to the gardens and to be able to visit regularly.

This year’s flowering escaped damage from frost, the main threat to the display each year, but strong winds brought down the older petals. Saddening though it might seem in a way, the fallen flowers made a beautiful picture on the ground:

In the last couple of years a new reception area has been developed at Mount Congreve with an informative audio-visual presentation on the gardens available for visitors on a constant playing loop along with a large three-dimensional tabletop map to give an overview of the gardens – important as so many people do not grasp the size of the gardens which extend to 70 acres and without guidance would miss many beautiful areas. The map is a great guide to exploration. There is also an excellent restaurant and gift shop – one enters the gardens via the main house and exits through the retail area.

A selection of magnolia blooms from the gardens:

The gardens are open every day and you can visit for more information and I should add that along with the magnolias there are many, many camellias in flower at the moment and a good number of rhododendrons also with many more to come but the magnolias are the stars of the show at the moment.

Despite all the colour and attractions of the gardens, this remains one of my favourite views in the gardens. I always feel it shows the essence of Mr. Congreve’s and Mr. Dool’s vision for the gardens, an already established woodland of beech, oak and chestnut where they cleared the undergrowth and planted with the richest selection imaginable of magnolias, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, maples and many other genera to create an outstanding garden which we, and future generations, can enjoy.

Finally, some views to the house:


7 thoughts on “Magical March Magnolias

  1. It is good to see the magnolia looking so beautiful. A mild March has obviously suited them though the wind and wet is not to my liking! And you are right that we are fortunate to live so close, though I have yet to visit this year. It is truly a remarkable garden and I look forward to seeing the new additions. Thank you for such a comprehensive glimpse of the beauty of the place.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I got as far as the refurbished café with friends on Wednesday. We sheltered from all the showers. I’ll return myself to walk the walks very soon. A treasure indeed. Thanks for the historical background, Paddy.
    Everyone should have a conveniently located big garden.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am one of those grumpy old men who dash through the café and “retail experience” as though my life was in danger. I go purely for the gardens – and was there again today.

      Liked by 1 person

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