Majestic Magnolias

Magnolia stellata Star Magnolia

Some of the best things this time of year are the flowering trees.  While ornamental cherries are popular they’re susceptible to problems so I tend to stay clear of them in my yard however I cannot be without majestic magnolias.

Not a wall flower by any means, the magnolia certainly demands attention.  There are many types of magnolias but most people think of the large, saucer flowers of Magnolia soulangeana in shades of pink that cover broad trees in spring. 

While they are wonderful there are others that deserve the spotlight and one of my absolute must-haves in my garden is Magnolia stellata (star magnolia).

Like the name implies, the flowers are star shaped in white or light pink, depending on the cultivar, and provide a mass of colour in early spring.  It makes a beautiful specimen tree in the garden where it can shine when there isn’t much else going on then fade into the background for the summer, providing a green backdrop for perennials.

This little tree is pest and problem free, in my experience, which includes deer.  Remember, no plant is ever deer proof but I’ve had great success with this one.

Another just-got-to-have-it in my garden is Magnolia sieboldii.  Fragrant, pure white flowers with crimson stamens open in late spring and early summer on this 10-15ft tall and wide tree.  Gorgeous.  But that’s not all.

Once the flowers fade (they bloom for about 6 weeks) the 3” long seed pods show up in bright pink and later open to reveal eye-catching brilliant orange seeds.

If you have a shadier garden then this one is for you as it prefers shelter from hot afternoons however mine is in full sun and it flourishes.

If you’re not into pink or white then go with Magnolia ‘Butterflies’. It has fragrant, tulip-like lemony yellow flowers that appear before the leaves.  A really pretty tree.

These magnolias are deciduous (lose their leaves come fall) but if you want one that is evergreen then Magnolia grandiflora is what you’re looking for.  With big, leathery leaves that are glossy dark green on top and fuzzy fawn colour underneath, this magnolia can be a majestic specimen tree.  Grandiflora means large flowered and this magnolia is no exception.   Fragrant, showy white blooms adorn the branches in late spring and sporadically through the summer if you’re lucky.

Usually this tree is too large for a lot of yards but there are a few smaller cultivars such as ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘Baby Grand’.  Although these ones are considered evergreen they still shed older leaves and I would recommend planting evergreen magnolias in an area where falling leaves can be raked up since they don’t break down easily.

Most magnolias prefer a sunny or part sunny spot in the garden with well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.  While they tolerate less than ideal soil its best to top dress every spring using Sea Soil Original, composted manure, your own compost or a mix of all three.

Other than that they’re pretty easy, no fuss trees that like to show off at this time of year.

Shirley Eppler

April 2014