Magnolias at Riva del Garda

The grass by the lake at Riva is spread with brown leaves, and more are falling all the time. In the town, too, broad Haussmanesque avenues are dignified by double rows of the same shady broad-leaved trees, some on the footpaths, some sheltering a park-like area down the middle of a road. They have been there a long time, from way before our century of mass tourism and razzamatazz, maybe from when the great hotels were built to house the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie, who could afford to travel. The trees have lasted better than the hotels.

These are fine mature magnolia trees, covered in blowsy white flowers. With their grey solid trunks the trees remind me of the Moreton Bay figs of my home, while the whole concept of a flowering tree feels tropical. They are not the briefly gorgeous magnolia soulangeana that we know in England, nor the pretty flurry of the magnolia stellata, but something much grander. The floppy, blowsy petals have a creamy fin de siècle decadence – worldly-wise, glamorous, indulged. These can only be magnolia grandiflora.

They flourish and decay all simultaneously, just as we do. New buds are opening, while full-blown beauties gradually tinge around the edges with chestnut brown, and then fall, separating and curling down, out of the air. Those are not leaves on the grass, but petals. At first they are crisp and shapely – curious, shell-shapes as if they want to pretend that Garda is the sea, and they are shells on the shoreline.

Magnolia petal on white paper

Magnolia petal on white paper

Three petals on white paper

Three petals on white paper

But they can’t be collected or kept like shells, for inexorably they turn floppy, and, darkening, move towards their earthy finality.

Three petals darkening on paper and table-top.

Three petals darkening 0n laminate table-top with paper.

Petals and shadows.

Petals and shadows.

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4 Responses to “Magnolias at Riva del Garda”

  1. Jean Says:

    Beautiful images, both in words and in pictures…

  2. Andrew Says:


  3. valkyrie1 Says:

    I expect acute observations and I expect to be moved when I read your blog. This entry has exceeded my expectations. XOX Teary Val

  4. Merle Newman Says:

    merle says-I’m proud to know you,Jill,after reading your magnolia story.The photos are worthy of an Art Gallery!Wondering,if you’re still in Europe,or home again writing retrospectively?I so enjoy your from MumI

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