The deciduous magnolia trees have started their bloom here in California.
The calendar says it is winter, so I suppose we must call them winter flowering trees, but for those of us who garden in California, the season most of the world calls winter, we call spring. This is a summer-dry climate which means winter-wet, and when the rains come, as they have this year, the earth comes alive as soon as the rains start.
And it sure feels like spring when the deciduous trees start the flower. The early almonds and cherries are flowering, and the magnificent magnolias at the San Francisco Botanical Garden have been blooming for weeks, and are now at their height.
And they are magnificent and have been a signature collection of the garden since it was started and known as Strybing Arboretum. The older trees dominate parts of the garden and this marvel is Magnolia campbellii ‘Strybing White’.
‘Strybing White’ was chosen as a cultivar of M. campbellii because of the way the lower petals fold back.
There are many wonderful trees in the collection, some are so large you can walk underneath them without realizing there is a flower show over your head.
I could only find this rare Magnolia sargentiana from the garden map that is part of the tour, but once I found it and stood underneath I was transfixed.
If you go to the garden do be sure to get a map. Many of the magnolias are clustered into various parts of the garden such as the Moon Viewing Garden.
And be prepared to crane your neck to see the taller trees.
Photographers, be sure to bring your telephoto lens; not just because it will get you closer to the flowers but a telephoto has a wonderful way of compressing shapes and textures.
Focusing on the flower and letting the background go soft, which you just about can’t help when using a telephoto, can create evocative images. This is the same Claret Cup magnolia that the ladies are admiring in the wide-angle view.
A tripod will also allow you careful composition. I stood admiring this Yulan Magnolia as it was set against the darker background.
With the telephoto lens I was able to carefully compose a photograph through the camera, that I later cropped to the strong horizontal shape.
A telephoto lens also allows you to stand back from a tree, when you can, to get a portrait of the whole tree. Fortunately there is a group of the magnolias flowering next to the Great Lawn in the garden so is possible to back off to see the trees in scale, as this Magnolia soulangeana.
I must say, I let out a chuckle when I did go close to this beauty to see the label; it is the cultivar ‘Picture’.
You’re kidding me? Someone had the audacity to think you could make a picture out of this ? Actually it is hard to go wrong photographing any of the magnolias, on display every “winter” at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.