Magnolias Begin blooming at VBG in 2017
This may be linked to the mild winter we’ve had, our weather recorder tells me we have been a long time without an air frost recorded, so from what we can see no frost since 18th January 2013!
The VBG Microclimate climate is very suited to the large Magnolia, on Mainland Britain they flower when frost still reigns supreme, and will turn newly open blooms brown in bright morning sunlight. Sir Harold Hillier who began planting here from 1972 did not see Ventnor as a site for them, despite himself having a M. campbellii from the Alba Group named after himself. Fortunately his successor, Simon Goodenough, saw things differently. He planted a small group in a sheltered position which offered itself as available following the great autumn clear-out afforded by the Great Storm of 1987. These trees left juvenility early in their lives and began flowering in the late 1990s.
We have been recording the phenology, or flowering times, of these Magnolias diligently ever since and it has been possible to see patterns emerging in relation to the type of winter we experience. A “usual” winter at VBG, where we have a mild start to the winter with a short cold snap around Christmas sees the first white M. campbellii var alba open in the first fortnight in January, with the redder cultivars opening two or three weeks later. Colder winters have pushed the first opening back into February. Our coldest winter for 30 years saw them open in March in 2010. Perhaps the most weird so far has been a pre-Christmas flowering in 2011 which followed an autumn where the temperature never went below 5ºC, but these early blooms where destroyed when a low pressure sat over Spain and pulled arctic cold down over us in February. This caused the Magnolias to start all over, but not until the first week of March.
In 2013 snow was recorded for the second time in 30 years at VBG, on 18 January, and endured for one day. Two air frosts were recorded for the month, neither persisted through the following day. Then the 2013/14 winter proved to be the mildest, wettest and windiest winter in living memory. As of 9th January 2015 we’ve not had a frost for over two years.
In 2014 our first M. campbellii var alba opened on 6th February, in 2015 our first M. campbellii var alba opened on 9th January. In 2016 our Magnolia campbellii var alba was open on Christmas Day.
In 2017 our Magnolias have started with M. capbellii alba on 5th February.