Home My garden A Sunsational tribute to my mam

A Sunsational tribute to my mam

Photinia Pink Crispy, Magnolia Sunsation and Acer shirasawanum Jordan, February 7
Photinia Pink Crispy, Magnolia Sunsation and Acer shirasawanum Jordan, February 7

Magnolia Sunsation to honour her memory…

Choosing a plant in remembrance of a loved one is an extremely difficult thing to do and the only advice I could give anyone is to go with that person’s personality (and make sure it will grow in your garden, of course).

As I was already digging up the long border (more of that nonsense here), I had the opportunity to make a bigger statement.

My mam was quite a character, extremely creative and some would say, ‘eccentric’. There were very few barriers she wouldn’t break in her quest for artistic excellence, whether painting, dressmaking (she was a qualified designer), cake baking, carving or jewellery making.

I realised that my love of architectural plants just wouldn’t do, so I started to think ‘what would she have wanted?’

She loved a big, blousy flower and I started to look at magnolias, which I’ve never grown before. My eyes fell on Sunsation, with masses of upright, golden-yellow flowers up to 20cm across with a rosy-purple blush at the base, borne on leafless branches.

Flowers reminiscent of 70s earrings

They reminded me of her 1970s whopper earrings, so that’s where my money has gone. Sunsation flowers usually in May, later than most magnolias, so there is much less risk of a late frost damaging the flower buds.

It is deciduous, with large, glossy green leaves opening after the flowers and has a more upright, pyramid fashion than other magnolias. I’ve sited it in a semi-shaded spot in fertile, well draining soil. The maximum height seems to be about 4m, which is fine.

Its bedfellow is another new small tree, Acer shirasawanum Jordan, or the full moon maple. The foliage opens orange-yellow, brightening to yellow-green before turning red in late summer and autumn. The summer foliage has contrasting small red seed heads.

That’s the back of the top half of the border planted up (I kicked out rose Crown Princess Margareta and the ornamental rhubarb, now both in the tropical bed, where they’ll get more sun).

Now to think about the underplanting…

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Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist and an incurable plantaholic. MandyCanUDigIt grew from the tiny seed of a Twitter account into the rainforest of information you see before you. Gardening columnist for the Sunderland Echo, Shields Gazette and Hartlepool Mail and editor of the Teesdale Mercury Magazine. Attracted by anything rebellious, exotic and nerdy, even after all these years. Passionate about northern England and gardens everywhere. Falls over a lot.

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