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