How to - Gardening Resources

Magical magnolias

Trevor Cole

Add an exotic touch to the spring garden with the tried-and-true and the new

In the mid-1950s, staff at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., carried out a magnolia-breeding program to extend the blooming season, developing slightly later varieties whose flowers would be resistant to late frost damage. Eight named varieties, affectionately known as “the Girls,” were released in 1965. They need a more acidic soil than the star and saucer magnolias. Both flower size and number of petals vary from year to year, and may depend on prevalent conditions the previous summer while buds were formed. Hardy to Zone 5b, the Girls form upright shrubs that grow to 4.5 metres tall. Many also have blooms that open sporadically during the summer. In order of flowering sequence, below are the Girls (see table on bottom of the page).

Magnolias with ivory or yellow flowers are growing in popularity and becoming more widely available in Canadian garden centres.

These yellow magnolias are likely the result of crossing the native cucumber tree-which has small, insignificant, yellow flowers-with either the Yulan or the saucer magnolia. Hardiness depends on their parentage, but they're worth trying if you're looking for something different.

One superior variety is ‘Elizabeth', introduced by Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A small, conical tree that grows to six metres tall, it has deliciously fragrant, pale yellow flowers. Although generally listed in catalogues as hardy to Zone 6b, these plants flourish in gardens in Ottawa's Zone 5 climate and flowered well in the spring of 2003, after a winter that was hard on many magnolia buds.

Other notable ivory and yellow magnolias include ‘Gold Star', ‘Butterflies', ‘Golden Endeavor' and ‘Yellow Bird', which have all survived and bloomed in Ottawa gardens. And, if you feel like experimenting, ‘Sundance', ‘Yellow Fever' and ‘Yellow Lantern' are worth looking for as well.

'Ann'red purple/pale purple10 cm 8
'Betty'red purple/white 20 cm 19
'Judy'red purple/cream8 cm 10
'Randy'red purple/white 12 cm 11
'Ricki'red purple/red purple15 cm 15
'Susan'red purple/pale purple12 cm 6
'Jane'red purple/white 10 cm 10
'Pinkie'pale purple/white 18 cm 9 to 12

Follow Style At Home Online



Latest Contests

more contests