Those of us who are plant connoisseurs love Magnolias for their big bold blooms that take centre stage, making an impressive display in late April and early May.
If the flowers of Magnolia lasted a month, we would tire of their beauty. But like a bouquet of cut-flowers, Magnolia blooms fade almost as quickly as they open. In a spring season of cool damp weather, Magnolias will bloom for 3 weeks or more, but as soon as hot dry weather arrives, flowers drop in a matter of days.
Even after flowers drop, I find there is beauty in magnolias because their large petals seem to decorate the lawn. Others would complain that the fallen petals look as if you’ve dropped Kleenex tissues everywhere. Within days the fallen blooms turn brown and disintegrate.
Magnolias, like Forsythias, produce blooms before their leaves open. The big fuzzy brown flower buds form during the preceding summer and are already evident at Christmas time.
The best time to plant a Magnolia is a decade ago. When young, a Magnolia will reward you with attractive flowers, but it is when a Magnolia is mature that it becomes most impressive. The stateliest Magnolias are more likely to be found in the older parts of town rather than in subdivisions.
There are more than 200 species of Magnolia, all originating from warmer climatic areas such as South America, Central America and most of Asia. Only a few species are hardy enough to withstand Ontario’s winters. Magnolias grow well in Southwestern Ontario, but don’t expect them to grow well east of Peterborough or north of Owen Sound.
Southwestern Ontario’s most popular Magnolia is ‘soulangeana’ or Saucer Magnolia. Flowers are cup shaped, creamy white, flushed with pink and purple. Following close behind is ‘stellata’ with pure white blooms resembling oversized daisies.
Other cultivars suited for Ontario gardens include ‘Susan,’ blooming later with darker blooms and ‘Yellow Bird’ with a more upright growth habit.
Magnolias will grow best when planted in moist, well-drained soil. They are adaptable to clay and sandy soils, but most will not enjoy growing in waterlogged soils. Magnolias prefer a spot in full sun to partial shade. I have always been told that Magnolias are not fond of windy conditions, but the 7 or 8 Magnolias I have growing in my rural yard are proof that wind is not an issue.
Those thinking of planting a Magnolia should give it a prominent spot where it can get the attention it deserves. Even when not flowering, the bold leaves and interesting branching pattern give a strong impression. Choose the location with care because once mature, Magnolias are not keen on transplanting.