The deep violet buds of our Japanese Magnolias are opening today, greeting the first day of April.
These shrubs amazed us when they opened early in our first spring in this garden. And they continue to amaze us with their concentrated color so early in the season.
Spring unfolds mostly in pastels. We have yellows, creams, palest greens; perhaps a bit of orange in the center of a daffodil.
But then this amazing Magnolia’s buds swell so rapidly during the first stretch of warm days each spring, you can almost watch them grow hour to hour.
So early that the leaf buds have barely even begun to swell, the flowers of these early Magnolias unfold in the opening acts of spring.
Originating in southwest China, Magnolia liliiflora has been in cultivation for centuries in many areas of Asia, including Japan.
It came into cultivation in English speaking countries from Japan, and so we often refer to these small deciduous trees as Japanese Magnolias.
Also called Tulip Magnolias or Lily Magnolia, they are grown for their flowers. Of slender and graceful habit, most cultivars remain small. Some varieties form slightly larger trees, but most remain rather shrub like, growing to only 8-12 feet tall.
Grown in full sun to part shade, in Zones 5-8, these deciduous Magnolias enjoy moist soil. We feed ours with Espoma Plant Tone or Holly Tone. Ours grow in slightly acidic conditions among Azaleas, Camellias, and under mature Oaks. While the deer freely graze the Camellias and Azaleas given the chance, they leave our Magnolias alone.
We have never pruned these slow growing shrubs, but we have needed to stake one which blew partially over in a storm. It is recovering well.
It was already growing towards the sun, and probably needs more sun than it routinely gets during the summer when the canopy fills in over our forest garden.
These shrubs are another of the many gifts left to us by previous owners. The appearance of their flowers assures us that spring is settling into the garden, and always brings us joy.
Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014
Choosing a Tree For the Garden