It’s stel­lar in spring­time

LIT­TLE GEM: Mag­no­lia stel­lata leads the way in spring dis­plays. David Ov­erend re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Advertising Feature -

STAR is born again. And with it comes the prom­ise of even big­ger and bet­ter things to come.

But right now, Mag­no­lia stel­lata, the star mag­no­lia, a lit­tle gem wor­thy of any gar­den, leads the way.

In early spring it is clothed with nu­mer­ous star-shaped white flow­ers. It likes a shel­tered site out of cold winds and where the soil is moist, well-drained and fer­tile. When plant­ing, tease apart the roots and spread them out in the plant­ing hole; fail­ure to do is likely to pro­duce a sickly tree with few blooms and a short­ened life. Ex­pect a ma­ture spec­i­men to reach 10ft in height.

Most peo­ple love a mag­no­lia but the vast ma­jor­ity of gar­den­ers would prob­a­bly think twice about grow­ing one of Stel­lata’s big­ger brethren be­cause of their rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a tad on the dif­fi­cult side and hav­ing a ten­dency for grow­ing quite large.

But if there is room, some mag­no­lias – par­tic­u­larly M soulan­giana – are at their best in late March and April, and are worth cul­ti­vat­ing. The colours of the great waxy blooms range from pure white (Alba su­perba) to rosy red (rubra).

M soulan­giana does have one big draw­back – and that’s its size. It may start off small, but given the right con­di­tions it will spread up­wards and out­wards un­til it’s no longer guar­an­teed to be flavour of the month in an av­er­age-sized gar­den. It’s far bet­ter to plump for M stel­lata.

But for some­thing re­ally spe­cial, noth­ing can beat M gran­di­flora, which, as its name sug­gests, is some­thing spe­cial.

It needs space be­cause it can reach 20 feet in height and spread to make room for its bright green leath­ery leaves and fan­tas­ti­cally fra­grant creamy-white blooms. You’ll need a big gar­den for a tree with such a growth record, but if you have the space and want to im­press the neigh­bours – think Mag­no­lia gran­di­flora.

If you’re not quite as for­ward, there’s al­ways the Sweet Bay, aka M vir­gini­ana, which is re­puted to have been the first of the Amer­i­can im­ports.

It is more self-con­scious than many of its showy brethren, con­tent to pro­duce small cream-white flow­ers from June through till Septem­ber. But what it lacks in size it make up for in fragrance.

All mag­no­lias have sev­eral things in com­mon – they like a fer­tile soil and a spot where the sun is likely to shine for most of the day. And they don’t like chalk around their roots (although M gran­di­flora seems to be able to cope).

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