The Magnolia is a garden plant well known to most Melbourne Gardeners and also to gardeners in cooler climates like Tasmania and Northern Europe. Varieties and cultivars available locally in Melbourne include Grandiflora Teddy Bear, Magnolia Grandiflora Little Gem, Grandiflora Exmouth and Magnolia Fairy.
The Genus includes more than 230 species of trees and shrubs that are originally native to East Asia, the Himalayas, and to North and South America. They can be either deciduous or evergreen which is surprising in itself. Although famous for their spectacular and fragrant pink, purple, yellow or white cup shaped flowers, some are even a source of timber. It it is not just the huge flowers that make the magnolia an attractive plant. The vibrant green smooth leaves are also an attractive feature as well as the often colourful cone shaped fruit. Magnolias exist in the fossil records for more than 25 million years. Meaning that they are one of the earliest flowering plants on the planet. They existed even before most of our flying pollenating insects had evolved. As a result, they depended on beetles for pollination. Even today, you can see many varieties have tough leathery outer petals, and woody carpels to make the flowers tough enough to cope with beetles pollenating the plants. Magnolias flower for just a short time, but when they do flower, they are spectacular.
The Exmouth is an evergreen variety that originated in Exmouth in Devon in the United Kingdom. The huge heavily scented creamy yellow flowers, that appear in late summer and early Autumn, can be up to 25 cm across. The glossy oblong leaves are also an attractive feature. This plant will grow up to 10m high and 10 m wide, but will flower when still quite young. Planting a few mature trees in your backyard will very quickly screen out your neighbours.
Small Garden Landscaping Ideas with Magnolias
If you are looking for small garden design ideas, then there are small slow growing dwarf varieties and cultivars that will suit you. One of our favourites at Red’s Landscape gardening is Magnolia grandiflora Little Gem. The little gem is like a miniature version of the Exmouth. Little Gem is happy with both partial shade and full sun. It is a smaller version of the evergreen bull bay magnolia but it will slowly grow to a height of around 5 metres with a spread of around 3 metres. It has attractive oval or elliptical shaped leaves and small flowers.
Garden care and maintenance for your Magnolias
Once established, your plants will be fairly low maintenance. These plants prefer well drained fertile soil that is rich in humus and organic matter. Keep them well mulched. Some varieties may require tree staking if you have a wind swept coastal garden. The PH level of the soil will depend on the variety you choose, but most prefer slightly acidic soil. If possible, thy to position your magnolia with full sun in the morning with some shade in the afternoon.
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