Magnolia, flowering cherry, rhododendron... Brooke Hall is bursting with them, in every part of the garden, and they look good. We are on an early morning inspection of the whole place on my first day and in the Wild Garden a shouty rhodendron, vivid pink with magenta ruffles, demands to be looked at. The head gardener says they're a bit random, the rhododendrons, distancing himself as people do. I like rhodo's because they remind me of Connecticut and they look well in woods and wild places. But for many they are beneath contempt. Ditto cherry (vulgar) and magnolia (suburban). The worst place to grow a magnolia has to be the suburbs. They look very at home in an arboretum or in a large garden amongst a collection of trees: the plant explorers of the nineteenth century would have brought them back from Asia to just such a place. They also look distinguished in city gardens, less impressive in towns and absolutely dreadful in the suburbs. But all three blossoms planted together! How unlikely and yet how transiently good.