Magnolias – Winter Flowering Trees

– Posted in: Garden Photography, Trees and Shrubs

The deciduous magnolia trees have started their bloom here in California.

Magnolia sprengeri v. 'Diva', pink flowering branch of deciduous Claret Cup tree silhouette against the sky in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia sprengeri v. ‘Diva’ in San Francisco Botanical Garden

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.

Magnolia sprengeri v. 'Diva', flowering deciduous Claret Cup tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia trees in San Francisco Botanical Garden

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’.

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White' flowering deciduous tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden with Magnolia doltsopa in foreground

Magnolia campbellii ‘Strybing White’, Magnolia doltsopa in foreground

‘Strybing White’ was chosen as a cultivar of M. campbellii because of the way the lower petals fold back.

Magnolia campbellii 'Strybing White' flowering deciduous tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia campbellii ‘Strybing White’

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.

Magnolia sargentiana, (Sargent's magnolia) flowering deciduous tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia sargentiana, (Sargent’s magnolia) in San Francisco Botanical Garden

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.

Magnolia denudata, Yulan Magnolia, white flowering winter tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia denudata, Yulan Magnolia, in Moon Viewing  Garden.

And be prepared to crane your neck to see the taller trees.

Magnolia sprengeri v. 'Diva', flowering deciduous Claret Cup tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia sprengeri, Claret Cup Magnolia in San Francisco Botanical Garden

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.

Magnolia sprengeri, flowering deciduous tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia sprengeri ‘Diva’, flowering deciduous tree

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.

Magnolia denudata the lilytree or Yulan magnolia, white flowering deciduous tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia denudata the lilytree or Yulan magnolia,  in San Francisco Botanical Garden

With the telephoto lens I was able to carefully compose a photograph through the camera, that I later cropped to the strong horizontal shape.

Magnolia denudata the lilytree or Yulan magnolia, white flowering deciduous tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia denudata Yulan magnolia, white flowering deciduous tree

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.

Magnolia soulangeana 'Picture', flowering dedicuous Saucer Magnolia tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia soulangeana, Saucer Magnolia tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

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’.

Magnolia soulangeana 'Picture', flowering dedicuous Saucer Magnolia tree in San Francisco Botanical Garden

Magnolia soulangeana ‘Picture’,  in San Francisco Botanical Garden

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.

 

 

 

Saxon Holt
Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic.com, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at www.photobotanic.com. https://photobotanic.com
Saxon Holt

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Leave a Comment

joan carroll, mg retired February 13, 2016, 11:45 am

Thanks for my magnolia “fix”. We had both these and dogwoods blooming in the
Spring – brings back old times.

Saxon Holt February 13, 2016, 12:01 pm

Happy to oblige Joan – I just showed the magnolias here but many of the ornamental almonds and the earliest cherries are going off too. IT’s spring !

Ellen w. February 17, 2016, 4:04 pm

The magnolias are blooming here in Capitol Park in Sacramento. Yesterday evening after work I walked through and literally had to stop and follow my nose to a beautifully-scented magnolia. It seems the odd heat wave we’re having agrees with them!

LaDonna McCoy February 18, 2016, 6:11 pm

Boy did this ever make my spring fever bad!

Saxon Holt February 21, 2016, 9:05 pm

Spring will come to you too LaDonna

Charlie@Seattle Trekker February 23, 2016, 6:43 am

The seasons all seem to be off, I do love this new season that is winter-spring with so much in bloom at this early date.

Saxon Holt February 23, 2016, 1:55 pm

I think this is one reason I love the early flowering deciduous Magnolias – suddenly a new year is bursting