“You should see the magnolia tree in the spring, it’s beautiful!” 

As I and a handful of other nervous candidates sat in the Magnolia Meeting Room last February, a cheerful member of The Abbey HR Team almost teased us with this prospect. As if the opportunity to work at The Abbey wasn’t tantalising enough, the promise of basking under this botanical beauty was being thrown into the package… and she was right. You really should see it. 

I missed it last year. Between that incredibly proud day for me when I was invited to work at The Abbey, and my next visit in June, it had flowered and dropped many of its petals. So this is my first spring in the school, and it’s been worth the wait. 

I knew that the Senior School quad, fondly known as the Rose Garden – an area of relaxation and learning for so many of the students on their journey through The Abbey – would again come to life with the lunchtime voices at play and beauteous pink buds blooming. I also knew that this very tree holds such a special place in the School’s DNA that it has stumped up its name to be shared with our Magnolia alumnae magazine. What I didn’t know was that I would develop an almost visceral connection with this aged behemoth in such a short space of time.

I take detours when walking through the school so that I can pass it more often. Visitors are made to note its magnificence. I even found myself picking up a fallen bud, struck down by a recent hail shower, and almost mourning its untimely demise. I’ve become a magnoliaddict.

But what can it possibly all mean? Perhaps it’s simply that connection with nature that Sacha Heard beautifully championed in last week’s Abbey Connected? Moments of calm inspired by the natural world? Maybe. But I’m an English teacher by trade and we are an annoying breed that work in metaphors, even when there aren’t any. I’ve spent my career teaching about the significance of weeping willows for lovesick Shakespearian characters, or the irony of pine trees, that are supposed to represent new beginnings, being used to build the Trojan horse, the tool for ultimately destroying the great city of Troy. So I needed to find out what the magnolia represents, and why it has chimed so much with me. 

Well, depending on which website you read, a magnolia tree can represent luck, stability, nobility, perseverance, purity, beauty, love, endurance, independence, resilience or …you’ll like this one…joy. 

That would be a lovely note to sign-off on, but I don’t want to. I’ve personally connected with the magnolia tree. Or I should probably say ‘we’ have connected, as it seems my experience is far from unique. Some students are even slightly worrying that the magnolia will have gone past its best by the time we return from our break. So what they, and all at The Abbey, have in common is an excitement about returning next month. They have earned their break – they’ve worked hard, they’ve thrown themselves into the life of this busy, wonderful school – but they are already looking forward to our return. A return to our studies, our arts, our sports, our clubs, our friendships, and of course to the magnificent magnolia tree.     

We wish you all a relaxing and joyful break.

George Morton
Deputy Head Sixth Form and Outcomes