MAGNOLIA

Mostly deciduous, but with some evergreens, the hardy and half-hardy magnolia group of flowering shrubs and trees is renowned for spectacular flower displays. There are specimen magnolias for most sizes of gardens.

Suitable site and soil. Magnolias like a deep, well-drained soil with added peat or leaf mould. Plant in a sunny spot; spring-flowering magnolias should be planted in a sheltered spot, perhaps against a wall.

Cultivation and care. Plant out in spring and support with stakes until established. Top dress every spring with compost or peat.

Propagation This can be slow and complex; most are bought as small plants. Propagation is by seed, layering or cuttings.

Recommended varieties. The choice is largely dependent on what you have space for. One of the best medium-sized ones is deciduous M. x soulangiana, which has a height and spread of about 4.5m – 15ft in time, and is usually smothered with large, rose-purple flushed white flowers in mid spring, before the leaves. There are named varieties with pink or purple flowers. Evergreen M. grandijlora is about the same size and has large bowl-shaped flowers from midsummer to early autumn. M. stellata, good for the smaller garden, is 3m – 10ft high and wide at most and it has delicate white star-shaped flowers in spring. Although slow to grow, it will flower when young and does tolerate lime.

Pests and diseases. Watch out for frost damage.

AGAINST THE WALL

M. grandiflora is very often trained against a south or west-facing wall where it gets plenty of sun and shelter from cold winds. It helps to train it if shoots low down on the plant are cut off in spring.

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