Spring has officially sprung, according to some plants in Cornwall

Six magnolia trees in Cornwall have flowered, signalling the end of winter, according to a tradition that's been running for the past 12 years.

In the US, a groundhog (or woodchuck, depending on where you are from) called Punxsutawney Phil is in charge of declaring Spring to be on the way, due to some ridiculous routine involving his own shadow. You might recognise this tradition from a film called ‘Groundhog Day’.

Thankfully, we in the UK are not beholden to such absurdities as letting subterranean mammals tell us when the weather is going to change. We rely on far more sensible measurements, such as when magnolias flower in Cornwall.

That date was February 16, it was announced by the Nare Hotel and the Great Gardens of Cornwall, meaning Spring has now officially sprung. It might feel a little early — those who believe in things such as the Earth’s rotation on its axis and its journey around the sun might say that March 21 is the first day of Spring — but few can deny the pleasure of the recent days of mild weather.

Magnolia blooms in the grounds of Caerhays Castle and Gardens. Credit: Credit Great Gardens of Cornwall

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Cornwall is lucky in that its proximity to the Gulf Stream means that the county sees signs of spring much earlier than the rest of us. Dating back to 2012, Cornwall’s Spring Story is a tradition whereby the first botanical day of spring is declared once six magnificent Magnolia campbellii in each of the great gardens of Cornwall have flowered, with at least 40 blooms on each of the champion trees. The tradition was started by Toby Ashworth, proprietor of the Nare Hotel, to ensure garden lovers ‘enjoy the splendid sight of the early spring Magnolia campbellii.

‘Spring always arrives early in Cornwall, often an entire month before other parts of Britain, and this year is no different,’ he says. ‘We were delighted to see the blooms flowering in the beautiful gardens across the Duchy.’ 

The other Great Gardens include Caerhays, Trebah, Tregothnan, Trewidden, Trewithen and The Lost Gardens of Heligan. ‘There’s nowhere better to enjoy early spring than in Cornwall,’ added Caerhays Castle owner Charles Williams. ‘Garden lovers should plan to come here in March to really see the gardens in all their spectacular and unique beauty. Flowering magnolias are the true start of the Spring season.’