Magnificent Magnolias.

Magnolia soulangeana

Magnolia soulangeana

Magnolia soulangeana is such a familiar sight in suburban gardens; it is the most popular magnolia. This one is in a neighbour’s garden. The trouble is its early blooms are often turned brown by frost.  It is lovely but there are many other varieties too choose from.

When we moved into this house there was not one single magnolia in the garden. In my previous garden there were 23 and every one was superb except for the one  that I had grown from seed. This one flowered after 15 long years but the flowers were small and disappointing, so I wouldn’t bother again. It’s like growing Wisteria from seed, the results are usually disappointing.

One of the first jobs  here was to plant some magnolias. I brought with me Magnolia liliflora ‘Nigra’ which I had propagated from one in my previous garden by layering. This flowers a bit later than most of them and is not out yet. It makes a nice compact tree and its flowers are very dark  purple-pink.

I felt I could not be without the lovely Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’. It is a hybrid between Magnolia kobus and Magnolia stellata. Each flower has 12 petals , similar to those of Magnolia stellata, but much larger. It is very beautiful and the pink flowers are fragrant. They don’t seem as likely to get frost damaged as those of the ubiquitous Magnolia soulangeana.

Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel'

Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’

Magnolia x soulangeana ‘Black Tulip’ was an impulse buy. I saw it in bloom and had to have it.  It is a hybrid from New Zealand bred by Mark Jury. The flowers are not black and neither do they look much like tulips. They are a deep burgundy and goblet shaped; more like water lilies than tulips. It is absolutely stunning.

Magnolia Black Tulip

Magnolia soulangeana Black Tulip

Magnolia liliflora x M.campbelli ‘Star Wars’ is another amazing hybrid from New Zealand. Unlike its tender parent ‘Campbelli’ it starts flowering very young.  I have only had mine for three years and it has 19 blooms on it this year. The flowers are huge and fragrant.  The late Princess Sturdza  who owned the magnificent garden, Le Vasterival near Dieppe in France said she thought it is the very best of all the magnolias. I went on a guided tour of Le Vasterival some years ago. The Princess who was then in her nineties  herded us around the garden with a pitchfork. If anyone dared to step on the flower bed they were prodded.  Her sidekick, Sybille kept a careful eye out for any stragglers. The garden was the most beautiful I have ever seen and the Princess was clearly a hands-on gardener even at her age. Our normally opinionated group was so much in awe of her and so frightened of getting prodded with the pitchfork that we didn’t ask too many questions. Nevertheless she told us a great deal about how she had created the garden and it was a privilege to meet her.

Magnolia lilifora x M. Campbellii 'Star Wars'

Magnolia lilifora x M. Campbellii ‘Star Wars’


Of course not all magnolias are pink. Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ is yellow. It flowers much later than the others so its flowers don’t get damaged by frost. It is one of the last to flower.   I also have the lovely  late-flowering Magnolia wilsonii which has an exquisite perfume but it doesn’t bloom until May. I will show you these beauties later when they are in flower.

Gill at ontheedgegardening showed us a gorgeous Magnolia  sprengeri ‘Marwood  Spring’ on a recent post. It is so beautiful that perhaps I may have to find one.  Do have a look at it. The only problem is  it grows quite big. Perhaps the more compact ones like Magnolia Susan are more useful if one lacks space.

My friend M has the lovely Magnolia ‘Susan’ which is looking fantastic at the moment. I bought one for my daughter and I really don’t know why I didn’t get one for myself.  It has lovely dark pink flowers and is very compact.

Magnolia Susan

Magnolia’ Susan’

If you want a Magnolia there are so many more interesting ones than the Magnolia  soulangeana that you see in everyone else’s garden.

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42 Responses to Magnificent Magnolias.

  1. Pauline says:

    What a fantastic selection of Magnolias, how have I lasted this long without having any in the garden here! So many people in the village have one, usually the large M soulangeana, but I should be able to fit one of the smaller ones in. I like the look of Leonard Messel, I must go hunting! Thank you so much for showing us such a wonderful variety of a Magnolias.

    • Chloris says:

      Leonard Messel is gorgeous and so is Susan. It’s a good idea to go and look at them and choose one whilst they are in bloom,. Best to ask how big they will grow, and how soon they will start flowering.

  2. Annette says:

    If you have so many Magnolias, Chloris, you must have a parc rather than a garden. 😉 I love them too and have M. stellata Waterlily and M. Leonard Messel. Both cope very well with the sometimes dry soil in summer. Nigra and Susan are stunning too, but I find it harder to like the yellow ones. Don’t know why…maybe because we’re used to them being on the pink side. M. grandiflora is used a lot around here and looks fab all year.

    • Chloris says:

      I used to have a very big garden, 11 acres that had been part of a nursery; that is why there were so many Magnolias. But now I just have an acre, so I have to choose them with care. I only have 6 now although I really think I will have to buy Susan -so just one more.

  3. Julie says:

    I did not appreciate that there were so many very beautiful Magnolias. We have one which I inherited, a very large soulangeana which in my front garden can be a public embarrassment, following a frost. When we moved here I intended to remove it, but over the years have grown to appreciate the shade it casts during the summer. This year the flowers are sparser and I am not sure why. I am encouraged to try ‘Leonard Messel’, elsewhere in my garden after reading your post. Your tour of Le Vesterival sounds thoroughly worthwhile.

  4. Chloris says:

    Leonard Messel is gorgeous. I bet your soulangeana is lovely too, this year the ones round here haven’t been damaged by frost and they look wonderful.

  5. I have a couple of magnolias here too: Elizabeth and Leonard Messel. I do love them but can never persuade myself that they sit happily in the area of the garden which is mainly field where I would have the space for more. Perhaps I will be bold and get rid of something nearer the house!

  6. Debra says:

    Magnolias really are magnificent as you say: colour, fragrance, elegance. What is not to love?

  7. croftgarden says:

    In a previous life I grew Magnolia wilsonii and it had just reached flowering size when we left – such a pity as the perfume was wonderful. I known it is as ubiquitous as soulangeana in urban gardens but I have a soft spot for M. stellata.
    Thank you for the lovely photographs they brightened up a very grey afternoon.

  8. Chloris says:

    Magnolia wilsonii is so beautiful. Like you I had to leave a beautiful one behind in my old life. The one I have now is only in its fourth year but it had one flower last year and I hope it will do the same again this year. Maybe it will even have two.

  9. mrsdaffodil says:

    A very timely post. I’ve been wanting a magnolia, but worried about the eventual size of the tree. Perhaps Magnolia Susan is the answer to my dilemma.

    • Chloris says:

      A really good choice, you won’t regret it if you buy Susan, she is absolutely gorgeous. My friend M has a very small courtyard garden and selects only the choicest and the best plants as she doesn’t have much space. She loves Susan and is really pleased with her choice.

  10. Robbie says:

    stunning…oh we still have no spring blooms,but I so love stopping by to hear all about your fragrant gardens! In her nineties-wow! I bet her gardening kept her living to 90! I bet she would of prodded me because I just have to ask-lol…

  11. Chloris says:

    It is a wonderful garden and even though Princess Sturdza has passed on the garden still takes parties of visitors.
    I hope you will get some spring blooms soon, ours are all very early this year as it has been so mild.

  12. Cathy says:

    Hmmm – 23 magnolias…? Can a girl have too many magnolias… or witch hazels…?! 😉 I have never thought of magnolias as being fragrant – your Black Tulip sounds particularly gorgeous. I don’t know what our well travelled magnolia is – something quite ordinary probably so I should be able to work it out. I also squeezed in a ‘Susan’ but in a very compact space and she is not doing much yet but we do get a few flowers. Yes, we must have pictures of your acre soon, please…!

  13. Chloris says:

    I didn’t plant 23 Magnolias, they were already there. In this garden I only have 6 so far.
    I will try to post some photos of the garden next week.
    A good choice, Susan, she is lovely.

  14. pbmgarden says:

    My neighbor’s yard has a Magnolia soulangeana blooming right now. Thought sure the cold had damaged it this year as the winter was harder than usual, but somehow it escaped. I didn’t realize there were so many to choose from–there may be a run on Magnolia Susan due to your post today!

  15. rusty duck says:

    I love M Leonard Messel but it does not appear to like me. My plant is looking all but deceased this year. I shall replace it though, in a different spot, and will definitely consider Susan. I couldn’t be without Magnolias.

  16. Kris P says:

    The deciduous Magnolias put on such a pretty floral show. I have one of the evergreen varieties – I’m not sure which but I believe it’s in the grandiflora species. The flowers tend to be hidden among the leaves but the humming of the bees always alert me to look up to find the blooms.

  17. Magnificent! I especially like pink ones. And I am always surprised to spot magnolias when they are in full leaf, as they become so ordinary. It’s as if they only really exist in spring.
    All the best 🙂

  18. CathyT says:

    Wonderful to see so many magnolias! I’m hoping that I’ll not be dissatisfied with the two small (and cheap) M. soulangeana I bought recently (as you were with the one you raised from seed). One of them has a bud on it (still not open) and my cat is buried under it, so I don’t want to have to dig it up! I avoided ‘Susan’ because I wanted the lighter, whiter flowers where I planted it. But perhaps I was wrong.

  19. Thank you for the mention! You have some wonderful magnolias and your last garden sounds amazing. I have oggled Black Tulip on more than one occasion so I wouldn’t be surprised if one day it joins our happy clan. Lovely post!

  20. Flighty says:

    Magnolias are always such a wonderful sight, and I’m thankful that I do see plenty whilst out and about locally. xx

  21. Chloris says:

    They don’t last long but they do give us a lift at this time of the year.

  22. Lovely collection of Magnolias! I only grow one and that is Magnolia stellata. I have recently transplanted it from a pot into the border and it is just, today, starting to unfurl, though many of the lovely furry buds don’t appear to have developed – not sure why! I once saw a wonderful Magnolia while visiting Prideaux Place, in Devon, a few years ago (lovely! Fascinating house with nice relaxed gardens). It was an evergreen variety, flowering at that time, August, with magnificent lemon goblets and the most amazing, knock out scent. How I wished that I had a much bigger garden!

  23. bittster says:

    I love your magnolia collection, they’re one of those trees that I would overdo if I had the space! What a beautiful photo of the black tulip.
    Vulcan is one I would love to add, but it’s hard to find and tricky in my climate and wind. Right now I’m sticking with my two suffering transplants, and wondering if I’ll replace the Leonard messel that died in last summers drought….. I’m sure I will!

    • Chloris says:

      I don’t know Vulcan but I just looked it up and it is stunning. So I am going to have to look for it.
      Magnolias don’t seem to like being moved they hate root disturbance.
      I hope your 2 transplants will stop sulking and settle down.

  24. I definitely learned something about magnolias from this post, thanks! We used to have a small one, species and variety unknown. Sadly we lost it to a scale infestation. I think my favorite is M. stellata, which is also the species that does best around here.

    • Chloris says:

      Stellata is beautiful. The only problem is that it blooms so early that the flowers often get damaged by frost here. There are so many lovely varieties that it is difficult to know where to stop.

  25. Anna says:

    Thanks for such an informative and well illustrated post Chloris. I’m waiting for the imminent delivery of a small magnolia wilsonii with much anticipation. I chuckled at the idea of you risking being prodded by a pitchfork. Was it just a theatrical prop do you think or would it have really been put to use if anybody had strayed from the straight and narrow?

  26. Chloris says:

    No Princess Sturdza did use her pitchfork on somebody who stepped on to the border to take a close up photo. She prodded them, they were embarassed rather than hurt.
    Magnolia wilsonii is stunning, the flowers are exquisite and the fragrance divine.

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