Magnolia flowers add beauty to your garden


What should be in bloom now that the exceptional beauty of the star magnolia and the saucer magnolia is long gone? Another member of the family, the Southern magnolia, is quietly beginning to spread its white flowers. This demonstrates the remarkable diversity of the magnolia family.

The first two varieties flowered before the leaves arrived. The latter has been left out, with its large leathery leaves that create shade, just as a tree would, and now produce flowers.

You can distinguish between the behaviors by using the term shrubs for an early spring appearance and the word trees for this relative in early summer. It is clear that the former shrub species need to be pruned or shaped. This tree is an older plant and every time it is pruned the branches seem to droop. There are some branches resting on the roof of the garage.

Fossil finds confirm Magnolia’s 100 million year history

Magnolias are a classic symbol of the South. Their history goes back 100 million years, as evidenced by fossil finds. They existed before bees appeared. The pollinator happens to be beetles. The flowers have a scent, although subtle.

Asian magnolia cultivars were introduced here in America in 1780. They were multi-stemmed but upright and massive. The genus “magnolia” has more than 225 trees and shrubs. They are available in a wide range of leaf shapes and plant forms, both deciduous and evergreen. They tolerate shade. The soil preference is acidic. This need can be met with applications of pine needles or peat moss amendments.

As for the current magnolia here, the flowers open white with cupped petals that vary in number but move to a creamy color as they age. Some are now almost golden in color and the orange petals remain in place. That’s a nice trait, a maturation with age, but still in play. The color change is visible from the kitchen window. It occurs to me that they might dry well in the borax and cornmeal mix. Stray flowers appear over a long period of time.

While the war with deer continues, magnolia has no appeal to this urban menace. Little comfort as the blossoms are so high on the tree. Deer cannot climb trees, although they can stretch out on their hind legs for soft foliage.

My feelings about magnolias are one of gratitude. It is an all around beautiful ornamental plant.

Mary Lee Minor is a member of the Earth, Wind and Flowers Garden Club, a certified master gardener, flower show judge for the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs and a former sixth grade teacher.