The tree is not native to the United States, but is a cross between two Chinese magnolias. Magnolia soulangiana was hybridized in 1820 in a French garden. The tree was named after the owner of the garden, Etienne Soulange-Bodin. He had been a cavalry officer in Napoleon’s army and afterward dedicated his time to his garden. Considering the just popularity of this beautiful tree in both Europe and the States, one would say his work was a success.
Winter strips the trees in the museum’s front yard of their lovely green leaves, but in their bare state, I see an echo of Vincent van Gogh‘s painted olive trees. These unique, corkscrew-branched shrubs are Corylus avellana ‘Contorta,’ commonly known as Harry Lauder’s walking stick. Not quite olive trees, but I see the resemblance all the same.
Amy Wike, Publicity and Marketing Coordinator