Magnolia wilsonii is almost past flowering in Marian's garden; its nodding flowers still hold to their pure white petals, showing off the dark, maroon centre contrasting so effectively with them. And there are still some buds left, hanging like little eggs from the branches. Walking under this sea of lemony-scented flowers is a real treat to somebody like me coming from a colder climate; so generous and exquisite. Looking up at the almost 20 feet high tree (6 m) makes me think of my mother, who for 15 years has lovingly coddled her little Magnolia stellata, one of the Magnolias hardy enough to barely survive in the cold climate of Turku in Southern Finland. It now reaches up to maybe 4 feet, despite my father's kind help of building it a sheltering tent for the winter every year.
Once I showed a picture of my mother's Magnolia for a gardening friend in Australia, and she (quite correctly) asked why my mother bothers with a plant so obviously not suited for the climate. And despite my strong conviction that plants should be chosen after the conditions of place they will be planted in, I still find my mother's effort deeply touching. All her work just to be able to enjoy the dainty, star-like flowers for two weeks (at most) shows so well what gardening can and should be at its best; a real labour of love, to use the old, worn expression. And at the same time, a bit of rebellion against the odds, being the one who decides what to grow in one's own little piece of paradise. The gardens of Marian and my mother, so far away and in so different circumstances, still sharing some of the same ambitions...