The Beetle & the MagnoliaTuesday, July 11, 2017
|Magnolia grandiflora 'Alta' July 9 2017|
Since I have lived in three countries as a boy and a young man before Rosemary, our two daughters and I moved to Vancouver in 1975 I have varied memories of the trees, plants and flowers of my youth.
One of them is based on a memory (few details) about being 12 years old and being taken by my mother to visit her friend Mrs. Marjorie Sullivan in Buenos Aires. In her patio she had a large tree that had luminescent and very big white flowers that had a scent like no other. I know now that it was a Magnolia grandiflora. It is called the Southern Magnolia in the US as it is the state flower of Lousiana and Mississippi.
Those who read these blogs know I am crazy about old roses and their scent. There is one, a white English Rose, Rosa ‘Fair Bianca’. While I cannot discern the taste of wine and its fragrance I do know my plant scents. This rose is a combination of lemon, Pernod and (very important!) magnolia soap. Its scent is defined by the English as that of myrrh.
In our old home in Kerrisdale (1986-2016) we had a Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ which never did flower. We moved it to our current little garden in Kitsilano in the hopes that the move might coax it to bloom. It died last fall.
Three months ago we bought a Magnolia grandiflora ‘Alta’ at Garden Works on Lougheed Highway.
It has bloomed! And it will bloom for at least two more months. Of the scent I can only state that it is like no other.
|Magnolia grandiflora 'Alta' July 19 2017|
In this digital age I wondered why a genus that is at least 20 million years old would have scent. It seems that while there were no bees there were beetles. The flower is designed to take the brunt of a beetle attack. I can only add here that beetles must have had (and have) a keen sense of smell (an elegant one, too!). Wikipedia came to the rescue with that answer of beetles.
Some years ago Rosemary and I went to North Carolina to a American Hosta Society Convention in Durham. We visited the Sarah P. Duke Gardens. As soon as we got off our tour buses the sweet smell was wonderfully overpowering. All (and there were many) Magnolia grandifloras were in bloom.
Somehow that our new magnolia has bloomed has given me the hope that our sojourn in what is left of our life in our Kitsilano home will be a most pleasant one.
For more info on the magnolia there is this citation inWikipedia.
The bloom of the magnolia is very white. As it ages it becomes light pink. After a few days it gets to be brown and it then falls of.