stunning Kobushi magnolia grown in Ottawa,
Ontario (Canadian zone 5b).
There's no denying the beauty of magnolias. In any garden,
they make exquisite specimen plantings and beautiful informal
groupings. With some 125 species, including both deciduous
and evergreen shrubs and trees, they can grow anywhere
from 2m to 25m or more. Their cup- or saucer-shaped blossoms,
with prominent pistils and stamens, emerge at the end
of buds that often resemble pussy willows. The tepals
(sepals and petals that are visually similar) number six
or more and are ovate or slender. Bloom colors, solid
or in combination, include creamy white, pink, purple,
yellow and even green. So far, there is no true red. Magnolias'
oval, smooth-edged leaves are slightly wider towards their
tips, while the lower parts can be lobed. A short stem
supports each leaf. In fall, the spirally arranged follicles
of cucumber-shaped seed pods turn green with rosy-red
tints. A follicle produces one or two orange-red fruits,
each containing a large black seed. Supporting the lot
is a trunk with smooth bark that becomes rough with age,
and fleshy shallow roots assisted by impressive tap roots.
Magnolias thrive in rich, loamy, slightly acidic soil.
It must be kept moist, as their root systems don't tolerate
drought, especially when newly planted. Mulching helps
retain moisture and enriches the soil as it breaks down.
New mulch can be applied annually or biennially over peat
moss (which helps maintain soil acidity), compost or well-rotted
manure. Azalea fertilizer or synthetic fertilizer, perhaps
10-10-10, can be applied shortly after blooms fade and
again in late June. Several hours of sun per day encourages
generous blooming, although younger trees can tolerate
semi-shade until mature enough to bloom. Early-blooming
varieties beat other deciduous trees to available light,
provided their blooms survive the frost.