Before most trees have come into leaf, the luxuriant colours of Magnolia flowers breathe life into our gardens. You will have seen them lately brightening up streets and parks, reaching out over walls in glorious pinks, whites and yellows, shaped like goblets, stars or carefully folded napkins.

Magnolias are ancient trees, some species dating back nearly 20 million years, they are the aristocrats of the flowering tree world and evolved before bees so rely on beetles for pollination.

Named after the famous French botanist Pierre Magnol, these trees are truly international. Over 100 different species have been identified growing naturally in North and Central America, in Brazil and also in Southeast Asia from the Himalayas across to Japan and down to Malaysia. Their adaptability has resulted in many wonderful forms: small shrubs, large specimens, deciduous and evergreen.

Plant hunters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries introduced many varieties to Europe and the genus soon established a passionate following.  Gardeners and horticulturalists have produced many excellent hybrids, combining the best characteristics of different species, resulting in plants that are surprisingly hardy and flower at an early age.

The temperate climate in the UK allows most Magnolias to grow well in almost any garden. Some smaller varieties such as Magnolia stellata can even be kept in containers. Impressive collections can be seen in arboretums at Caerhays Castle in Cornwall, Batsford Arboretum in Gloucestershire, Wakehurst Place in Sussex and Bodnant Gardens in North Wales.

For more detailed information about the best varieties to grow in your garden visit http://www.frankpmatthews.com/catalogue/magnolia