The Yulan Magnolia is a Jewel in Winter's Crown at Vaucluse House

the Pleasure gardens at Vaucluse House with the Yulan magnolia blooming in the gardens. Its early morning so the light is low and you can see the white petals on the ground

The Yulan magnolia in full glory amongst the Pleasure Garden. Taken at my favourite time of the morning as I arrive for work. Photo Tristan Harman © Sydney Living Museums

This is my third winter working on the gardens of Vaucluse House. Each year this amazing tree catches me by surprise. Of course I notice the velvety buds developing on its bare angular stems, but I expect the flowers to come a bit later like they do with other magnolias. Instead the flowers start to appear not long after the winter solstice, when we humans barely perceive the days lengthening.

It seems also that the flowers appear magically overnight. One afternoon I’ll walk past and there’s no sign of life. The following morning when I arrive flowers have begun to open.

Our start time in the gardens is 7am, and at this time of year it’s the absolute crack of dawn. This is my favorite time of the day, and I think it’s the best time to admire (and photograph) this tree.

A clear sky at first light makes for the perfect back drop to contrast against the branches, and the pure white flowers in the cool air with the dew catching the soft light is sublime.

Unfortunately, flowering doesn’t last long. After three weeks or so they’re fading, and if we get heavy weather flowering time can be reduced. But if you’re around Vaucluse House during July you’ll see one of the most beautiful flowering trees in this fair city.

The Yulan Magnolia (Magnolia denudata) is without peers in the winter gardens of Vaucluse House.

See the magnolia from 2017 here 

About the author

Tristan Harman

Tristan Harman


Tristan Harman was born in Sydney. He moved to Orange in the Central West of NSW in 1990, here he finished High School and later studied Horticulture. In mid 2000 He moved back to Sydney where he has worked as a Horticulturist ever since. Over the years Tristan has worked at a variety of sites from UNSW to Waverley Park and TAFE. He now works on the SLM Gardens Team based at Vaucluse House.