On Sunday the blooms of the pale yellow flowered ‘Elizabeth’ magnolia (Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’, below) were perfection. By some confluence of circumstances nearly every flower arrived at once so that the tree went from nearly bare to full bloom, probably within hours though I was not watching at the time. From Saturday evening to Sunday morning the transformation occurred, and happily I was able to wander past several times on Sunday while working in the garden, and then again through the early week.
On some afternoons the yellow flowers seem barely so, and would be best considered a creamy white, but on this day the blooms were clearly pale yellow, and marvelous. ‘Elizabeth’ is often listed as our native Cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata), but instead it is a cross between cucumber and Yulan magnolias (Magnolia denudata), if that matters. The fruit that follows flowering is similar but slightly smaller than on the cucumber tree, and so the confusion is inevitable. In any case, it is a hybrid and should not be considered as a native tree, though it is exceptional and any garden is the better for having included one.
Predictably, after two nights of freezes, the blooms have collapsed into a heap of brown mush (above). In a more typical spring the flowers might open over a period of a week, so some would be injured by frost while others would be unscathed, but the spell of extreme warm days last week pushed the buds to open all at once, and here we are. There will be no lasting effect from the damage to the blooms, and by next week the brown flowers will have dropped and been forgotten.
A brief walk this afternoon has revealed little other damage to the garden from the two night’s freezes, though I continue to be saddened to find evergreens that have suffered considerably from the long and harsh winter. An aged dwarf hemlock has turned completely brown, with all branches showing brown beneath the bark, and a Brackens magnolia has suddenly turned brown, though on some branches buds are alive. The magnolia is extremely cold hardy, but in any year there are tragedies that result from a combination of circumstances, and no doubt that is the case here.