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China Girl blog 21st March 2019

The damp and wintery sun changes everything, from the light in the air, to the light in one’s soul. Despite the last two miserable weeks, suddenly there is a small feeling that spring is on its way.

At long last, some of the magnolias are in glorious flower; like birds of paradise, they shimmer in the March sunshine. Magnolias were named in honour of Pierre Magnol, who lived from 1638 – 1751 and was Director of the Montpellier Botanic Gardens. They are by and large, native of north and central America, eastern Asia and the Himalayas, mostly with magnificent flowers. Flowering here are but a few of the eighty species. Magnolia kobus Norman Gould, raised at Wisley has pale yellow outer petals with stunning bright yellow stamens; its wood is sometimes used for engraving. Magnolia loebneri Leonard Messel, raised at that spectacular garden Nymans in Sussex, and thought to be a cross between M kobus and M stellata.

Growing under the trees in the shade is the parasitic Lathraea squamaria, known as toothwort, growing on roots of hazel, alder and occasionally on beech and elm. The stems are underground, only the short flowers emerge, hence the name toothwort, as if the flowers are emerging from the gums, like teeth.

Mother’s somewhat eccentric Aunt who was a doctor, and had she lived would be one hundred and ten years old today. This reminded Ma that when walking through Hyde Park with her Aunt, they were approached by a man riding a bicycle with his trousers undone. Great Aunt Katherine, not in the least put out, hit him with her new handbag, saying “Put that thing away!” They walked on as the man fell off his bicycle!

This week has passed in a flurry of garden work as we shake off winter, and suddenly the sun is shining like a trickle of pure gold.