My old house

Lavenham houseis the really yellow one.  I stayed with friends on Thursday night and drove through Lavenham yesterday morning. This place was fabulously wealthy in the 15th century on the back of the wool trade.  It then became an economic backwater –  nobody could afford to knock down and improve.  There are about 400 listed timber-framed buildings from the 15th and 16th century.  

Whats all this to do with gardening?  Well, in the garden there is the best magnolia tree for absolutely miles around and I badly wanted to pay my respects and take its picture for this blog.  Under our tenure, people would stick their heads through the archway off the street and admire it. That has changed.  The new owner has barred the archway with a thick oak door.

There is a footpath that runs up the hill towards the church and  a gate at the bottom of the garden joins it.  Early morning dew on my feet, I went up the footpath thinking to sneak in through the gate for a shot.  The hedge was unkempt, the gate was all snarled up with a sign warning of a live electric current.  Three high strands of wire bore this out.  An unusual level of paranoia for rural Suffolk.

Magnolia soulangeana
29th April in bloom, Magnolia soulangeana

Many magnolias like acid soil but Magnolia x  soulangeana is not so fussy about soil pH.  What you need to look out for when choosing a planting place is compass orientation.  Try to avoid an east-facing site as on a frosty morning, the early morning sun will expand the ice crystals and fry the flowers.

Magnolias make a fine subject for a woodland planting under their spreading branches.  So if you are planning a flowerbed round one, here are a few plant suggestions:  pulmonarias, triandrus daffodils (I recommend Narcissus triandrus Thalia for cut crystal classiness.  It is triple headed, delicate and flowering right now) Add hellebores, violets and columbines out to the sunnier fringes.  Tulipa sprengeri, the species tulip and flowering late and red is one to try too – I’ve found it a bit fussy and likely to walk out of a planting scheme.  To complete the list, lily of the valley and Solomen’s Seal. All these plants have a woodland ‘feel’ to them.

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