Magnificent magnolias

Selecting a tree for your garden can depend on what function it needs to perform such as privacy, shade or shelter, but sometimes there is a tree that is a must have – like the deciduous Magnolia.

They are just too hard to ignore. If you want shade in the summer, sun in the winter and a stunning display of flowers in the spring, then it ticks all the boxes.  Magnolias flower as soon as there is the hint of spring in the air with large pear shaped buds that are followed by beautiful flowers, all while the branches are bare of foliage.

The family of magnolias is vast, from the smaller star flowers of the stellata’s to the larger tulip flower types. There is a magnolia that will fit a garden of any size.

They were widely used in Victorian times when the language of flowers was used to convey a message to a potential suitor or lover. Every flower has a meaning attached to it, for the magnolia it is “Dignity” one it certainly deserves.

We have chosen five magnolias we think are worth knowing and deserve a place in any garden, either as a lawn specimen or in the back of your garden beds.

Magnolia Genie - Medium sized tree, flowers early with a stunning display of deep burgundy-black buds opening to medium sized flowers of burgundy-red. Grows 3m high to a width of 2m.

Magnolia Black Tulip – Suitable for the smaller garden as have a compact growth habit with red-black flowers. Be patient with this tree as it needs a few years for the flowers to be all true to form, it’s worth the wait. Grows 3.5m high to a width of 2.5m.

Magnolia Burgundy Star – Another good choice for a smaller space as this tree has a narrow growth habit. Claret red flowers. Grows 3.5m high to a width of 1m.

Magnolia Vulcan – Large showy deep magenta flowers up to 25cm across. May take a couple of years for the flowers to develop to their true size and colour. Grows 4.5m high to a width of 2.5m

Magnolia Felix Jury – Magnificent size fragrant flowers of red ageing to a rosy pink, this tree will need a lot of space to grow. Grows 5m high to a width of 3.5m.

Whatever type you select give it room to grow, let it shine and it will never disappoint.

Pest and diseases rarely affect the tree any problems are more likely due to unsuitable conditions. They prefer a slightly acidic soil so avoid using lime, but will do well in any good free draining soil. A sunny position is best, although they will tolerate light shade they are hardy but not suited to a windy spot.

Magnolias need minimal pruning to maintain their shape or remove any damaged wood. This is best done after flowering, always cut back to clean wood and if the cuts are large then seal the wound with pruning paste. If you are using the blooms for cut flowers, cut back all the way to another branch to avoid leaving a stub that is unsightly and will cause die back.

Another point worth remember when it comes to magnolias is choose your planting spot carefully. They really don’t like to be moved, it damages their fleshy roots and they struggle to recover. Think of your neighbours, it is natural to want to maximise space and plant against a fence or boundary but to avoid problems later on pace out the eventual spread of the branches before you plant. Make sure they won’t encroach where you don’t want them to, it will save making a hard decision later on.