Big Big Flowers

July 16th, 2015 by Catherine Nelson, Adult Tours Program Assistant

maggrandifloraflwrThe Magnolia grandifloras in our collection are blooming now!  Who doesn’t love a 12-inch wide flower that smells great?   The commonly named Southern Magnolia or Bull-Bay is native to the SE United States from Eastern Texas, along the lower Gulf Coast to the Atlantic where it grows in loamy soils near water.  It has proven to be very adaptable to different soils and this has allowed for its ability to be cultivated in many different climates.  The largest M. grandifloras in their native habitat have been measured at up to 125′.  In non-native climate gardens they tend to grow to about 80′.

This tree is a valued ornamental in gardens around the world because of its large flowers and dark green glossy evergreen leaves.  It is used industrially for its beautiful hardwood to make furniture and cabinetry.  The seeds are food for native southeast squirrels, possums, quail and turkeys.  The leaves, fruit, bark and wood also are valued for their pharmaceutical properties.

Our collection M. grandifloras are located on either side of Arboretum Drive in the Magnolia section of the arboretum.   These trees are quite large and most of its flowers are high up, but there are a few on the lower branches accessible for smelling that nice citrusy scent.  Tour visitors from the Southern US assure me that this scent can be smelled at a distance down there, but up here in the Pacific NW one has to get up close to enjoy the scent.  And, speaking of tours, these trees and other summer bloomers like the Hydrangea are featured in our Free Weekend Walks for the month of July.  Join us any Sunday; we meet at 1:00 pm at the Graham Visitors Center.



August 2012 Plant Profile: Magnolia grandiflora (dwarf cultivars)

August 7th, 2012 by Soest Gardener, Riz Reyes

The bold presences of the Evergreen Southern Magnolia is truly a sight to behold in late summer as its creamy white blossoms unfurl, emitting a sweet, pleasantly pungent aroma that fills the warm air.

One of the problems, however, is its eventual size. Most of the cultivars readily available will easily get too large for a small urban garden, but there are a handful of selections that stay at a reasonable height, yet still provide the exquisite, deep green, glossy foliage and russet brown undersides and, of course, the ethereal blooms in summer.

The one photographed here is one we have here at CUH called ‘Baby Doll’. Unfortunately, it’s not readily available in the trade, but it possesses a wonderful mounded compact habit for a small tree. It stands about 10ft. tall and about 15 feet wide in canopy.

More commonly available in the trade is ‘Little Gem’. A handsome, but sometimes overused selection. This still gets to be quite large when fully mature at 20-25 feet high, but much smaller compared to the standard selections.

A little newer on the market, but appears to be quite promising are ‘Teddy Bear’ and ‘Baby Grand’. The wonderful russet undersides are very prominent in ‘Teddy Bear’  as the densely leaved selection is calling to be embraced. It has rounder foliage and a tidy and fairly uniform habit. Another fine selection that has proven itself to be a performer even in not so ideal conditions is the newest selection dubbed ‘Baby Grand’. It has a wonderful short stature that will make it great for large container work and it seems to be a great bloomer even on a young, establishing plant.

Magnolia grandiflora could almost be a staple in almost every landscape/garden. The plant looks wonderful year round, adds a nice tropical feel to the Pacific Northwest landscapes here and it’s fabulous flowers in this month are an absolute treat!

Common Name: Southern Magnolia, Evergreen Magnolia
Location: CUH West Entry
Origin: Dwarf selections are of garden origin.
Height and spread: Most dwarf cultivars stay around 15-25 feet in height and about 15-20 feet wide.
Bloom Time: Late Summer into Autumn