Several years ago, Glenn Withey and Charles Price, the curators at the E.B. Dunn Gardens, asked me over for a visit. They served the most delicious chocolate cake, but even more memorable (which is saying quite a lot when it comes to me and chocolate) was the magnolia right outside their front door. I've never seen such a magnificent magnolia before or since, and I remember so clearly how it's pale, fragrant flowers on naked limbs stood out against the storm-cloud dark April sky. And this tree is huge - it has thousands of shell pink gossamer blossoms, each as big as a dinner plate, delicately cupped and centered with frilly, rosy stamen.
I often think of that most gorgeous of trees at this time of year when I first saw it in bloom, and recently thought to ask Glenn about it. He reports that Ed Dunn planted this Magnolia sargentiana 'Robusta' 45 years ago. Since I, and probably you, didn't get to see the tree in full, lush bloom this year, Glenn and Charles have sent along some photos so vivid you can practically inhale the magnolia flower's fresh, lemony perfume.
The Dunn Garden is a joy and an education to visit because it has such mature specimens, grown to perfection over many years. The garden is open for tours now through July and again September through October; email (email@example.com) or call (206-362-0933) for further information and reservations.