Saturday, April 2, 2011

Magnolia Study Day at the National Arboretum




Pat and Carole on the tour. Jim Adams photographing Andrew Bunting. Mystery magnolia "collected as M. officinalis". Magnolia x loebnerii 'Leonard Messel'

After a week of frantic, well intense anyway, preparation we had the Magnolia Study Day. Despite a slow start to registration we ended up with a full roster (plus 1?). Andrew Bunting is the new president of the Magnolia Society International, and spoke about magnolias in the landscape. He grouped cultivars by their relationships and his survey included both classic and brand new selections.

Mostly we were local though we had one attendee from way upstate New York, just a few miles from the US/Canada border. It was interesting to learn from him that they grow far more of the yellow Magnolia acuminata hybrids than we do. Because they're hardier obviously. Gordon Hagen came from Thurmont, Maryland where his collection, by his own estimate, consists of somewhere from 300 to 400 plants. Chris Carley had invited attendees to bring samples either of interest or for identification and Gordon brought a number of interesting branches. Janet Draper brough a branch of an unknown Michelia type from her garden at the Smithsonian. Andrew picture messaged it to Dick Figlar who is the preeminent magnolia expert in this country. He identified it as Magnolia cavaliete macropetala. That process was one of the coolest things I've seen in a good while.

After lunch we toured the collection which was exciting. The sun hadn't been out since Monday but it did make a brief appearance in the morning. At lunch we heard reports of hail. And wonder of wonders, while it was sunny for the bulk of the tour, the sky blackened and we were hit with some kind of solid precipitation just as we returned to our cars ofter seeing almost 100 taxa of magnolias.

Thanks to the diverse and knowledgeable group we heard some interesting anecdotes. For example we found out that Magnolia x kewensis 'Wada's Memory' was named for a Japanese nurseryman who collected seed from the hybrid that occurs where the ranges of Magnolia kobus and M. salicifolia overlap. The story goes that the cultivar, named at the Washington Park Arboretum in 1959, was intended to honor K. Wada posthumously. It turned out he wasn't actually dead and at some point actually visited the plant. Good stuff!

I feel that the format really worked and would be well applied both to other formal collections and even other taxa that we have good collections of. One of our exit survey questions was "what other collections would you like to see present study days?" I didn't fill out a survey but I'm voting for camellias and Dr. Ackerman.

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