Friday, June 12, 2009

The native Magnolias are kings (queens?) of the Magnolia collection in the summer

The Asian Magnolias rule in the spring, but this week the only show in town are two natives: Magnolia virginiana and Magnolia grandifloria, the Bull Bay. It's quite a show. And, while both species are flowering heavily now, both will continue to dribble flowers out a few at a t ime for the duration of the summer. I know it''s not appropriate to talk about gender differences but as a designer, I always flinch when I'm with a couple and the subject of Magnolia grnadiflora comes up. Statistically men hate them for their messiness; they drop leaves every single day of the year. Most women, not all, seem to feel that the incredibly huge and richly fragrant flowers offset the annoyance of constantly falling large leaves.....Here's the thing though. Come to the Arboretum this weekend and you can see and smell all you want and we'll deal with the mess. What a deal!

Magnolia virginiana (top photo) has flowers smaller than those of the Bull Bay. Their fragrance is a bit citrusy not so thick and rich but still wonderful. Depending on your Zone and the cultivar you choose they range from fully deciduous to almost fully evergreen. The leaves are a soft green on top and grayish-green, almost whitish, on the undersides. This was my favorite small tree for many years and I put them in countless designs. It would be a good thing if I have enabled the planting of hundreds of these magnolias.

Everybody loves the large evergreen Magnolia (bottom photo). You just might not like it in your own garden. The fragrance is rich, almost overpowering when an entire tree or more is in full bloom. The evergreen trees grow relentlessly frequently overpowering small areas. It takes heat to produce flowers and in cooler climates they're often espaliered against a sunny wall. Lots of work there, the flowers must be worth it.

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