Friday, April 26, 2013

An Amazing Spring For Magnolias In New England

The purple Saucer Magnolia - 2013 BDG

I still don't feel like posting my piece on mulch in the wake of the past two weeks here, so I will focus on some of the beautiful revelations this week as our spring continues its slow and consistent march forward.  One of the great beneficiaries to a "Goldilocks Spring"(not too hot and not too cold), is the Magnolia.


Here in New England if we get a week of warm weather they open and drop their petals very quickly.  On the other hand, if they open and we get a  frost, the petals burn(turn brown) and drop.

Star Magnolia finishing its three week bloom - 2013 BDG

The most susceptible seems to be the Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata), rarely do we get a show like we have had this year with them blooming for three weeks.  They are called Star Magnolia for the star shaped flowers with many petals.  The Star Magnolia seems to open a week or two before the Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana).  The Saucer Magnolias are having an amazing spring too with many different cultivars their colors ranging from the purples to roses and to pale pinks.


A rose Saucer Magnolia - 2013 BDG

I don't typically use Magnolias in my designs in New England because space is at a premium on most of the properties I work, and I often choose ornamental trees that offer more throughout the seasons, but on these spring days, it makes me want to re-think my opinion.  Also, I don't want to get the Magnolia Society upset at me.



There are many other species: kobus, lilliflora, denudata, acuminata, virginiana and crosses of these species that are available at some nurseries in the area.  I know a few people that even have the classic evergreen southern Magnolia growing on their properties, but that is an iffy proposition around here.  The virginiana or Sweet Bay Magnolia is another favorite that flowers a little later and can be quite fragrant, but the flower display is not on the level of these early spring Magnolias.  There are some reliable yellow flowering Magnolias that are crosses between denudata and the cucumber Magnolia (acuminata).  "Butterflies" and "Elizabeth" are two commonly available yellow-flowering plants.  





Acer japonica "Aconitifolium" - 2013 BDG
Speaking of other ornamental trees that work hard all year long, I have included some images of my favorite Stewartia pseudocamellia breaking bud and another favorite Acer japonica "Aconitifolium".  These are two of my favorite trees for highest visibility areas year round.  The red flower and emerging leaves on the Japanese Maple are stunning in the spring, while the lime-green color of the Stewartia leaves are so distinctive in color and form.


Stewartia pseudocamellia just leafing out - 2013 BDG
Pulmonaria, the first perennial to bloom with the bulbs - 2013 BDG




8 comments:

  1. Interesting comments about magnolias, Reed. I had always imagined they would enjoy a colder climate but it sounds as if they're not as reliable a performer for you as they are in warm temperate Sydney. The flowers are rarely spoiled by either problem as their flowering is brought on much earlier by our mild winter - Magnolia stellata flowers here in July. The only thing that ruins Mag. soulangiana is the possums, which eat the emerging flower and leaf buds so relentlessly they can kill the whole tree. And do the Stewartia leaves stay that lime-green, or is that its spring party dress?

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    1. The plants are hardy, some a little colder(Zone 4) than others, its just that the flowers are sensitive. Glad to say we don't have a possum problem thankfully.

      Stewartia leaves are bright green for the first month, then they turn a little darker but have beautiful color throughout the year and stunning orange/yellow/red fall color.

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  2. We had a small magnolia tree when we moved into our house 10 years ago, but it succumbed to scale and various maladies. Star magnolias are very popular in the Chicago, several neighbors have them.

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    1. We have lots of Stars around here too, but they often only get to flower for a few days before they get burned by a frost.

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  3. I have a special fondness for big old fashioned magnolias. I remember picking up the big cones when I was a kid, popping out the red seeds, and then having wars where my friends and I threw them at each other. It's interesting what you come up with when electronics aren't an option. But I still get a thrill when any cultivar blooms, even the little starry ones. :o)

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    1. With the time I have spent in VA with my friend Dan, I have seen some amazing specimens of Magnolia grandiflora. I didn't know about the seeds...that is pretty cool.

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  4. Hi Reed, my saucer magnolias are not blooming this year, they went strait to budding , green leaves but no flowers. they are three years old and bloomed last year with several flowers.what do I do wrong?
    Natalie

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    1. There are two probable scenarios, first is that it never set flower buds in the fall. These are big fuzzy buds that are obvious after the leaves drop off. This is not uncommon with young trees or trees that get pruned late in the summer. The second scenario is that it did set flower buds in the fall, but through hard frost they fell off before blooming in the spring.

      Another idea is that you may be pampering it too much. Stay away from fertilizer or too much nitrogen. A good quality mulch around the tree should be sufficient.

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