An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

April 5, 2008

Magnificent Magnolias

This was a very good year for the Saucer, Star and hybrid deciduous Magnolias. So many of my customers call these Tulip Trees that we give them a little quiz to make sure they want a Magnolia and not the Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). In many years here, there are winter warm spells that encourage the blossoms to open too early, only to be turned to brown mush by a freeze. Fortunately this did not happen this year.
One of my favorite specimens in the area is along the route to my son's school, and I have now become one of those people who will stop the car and go into a stranger's yard to take pictures of their plants. Unfortunately I don't know the name of this variety, but these were taken about a month ago when the tree was just about to peak.

When I was at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens about a week ago, the Magnolias were just about all finished blooming. However, they had several spectacular specimens including this Magnolia x 'Elizabeth' which was glowing in the center of the arboretum.

They also had a very young specimen, who's label I could not find, growing in the Camellia collection. It had the largest flowers of any deciduous Magnolia I had ever seen.

Here is another that I couldn't get the name on, but it may be one of the Little Girl cultivars.
I took the rest of the shots at work, where we have two nice specimens in the display gardens. The first is Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' .
This close up makes the Leonard look like some sort of wilted sea creature.
We also have a large Magnolia x loebneri 'Merill' planted, and it is rare that it doesn't open and quickly turn brown. This year it was beautiful and the flowers lasted nearly two weeks.
I love these plants, but until I get a bigger yard, I can't devote any of my limited garden space to something that gets so large and only blooms for such a short period. Until then, I will continue enjoying them elsewhere.


  1. I don't have any magnolias either. I always loved the evergreen type (name?). There are lots of those in our area here and they even look great in winter.

  2. Bek,

    You are probably seeing the Southern Magnolia - Magnolia grandiflora. This is one of my favorite trees, a little large and messy for my small yard, but there are enough around that I can still enjoy them.

  3. Les, are you aware of any disease or fungus that would cause major twig dieback of a Japanese Magnolia "Jane"? I've got 3, newly planted. Two of them are doing fine, but one whole side of the third one has died, and most of the leaves seem to be dying from the tips. I guess it could be cold damage, as I planted this one a little earlier than the others and it did see some 20s, but I wouldn't think it would affect the stems that much. I'm planning to write about it tomorrow and will post some photos on my blog.