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Great Shrubs For The Northwest Garden

MagnoliaMost first time gardener's call them 'Tulip Trees', but what they are really referring to are the showy 'Magnolias'. What a great plant for the Northwest garden! This plant family offers a wide range of flower colors, growing habits and leaf forms, in both deciduous and evergreen shrubs and trees. Ideal for use as a specimen landscape plant or to use in group plantings for mass color.

Flower colors range from pure white to creamy shades, pinks, rose, reddish tones to shades of purplish red. Several varieties are also pleasantly scented.

It's important to take a look at all the varieties of magnolias, because by proper selection of varieties it is possible to have a succession of bloom from march until frost. Most of the spring flowering varieties blossom before the leaves appear, so they should be planted in a spot where there is an evergreen background so the flowers show-off at their best.

Flowers - vary in shape and size, depending upon variety. However, the most popular spring ones are shaped somewhat like tulips, when they first open. Cut branches are often used in arrangements, particularly in oriental 'Ikabana' floral designs.

Planting location - most varieties prefer part sun and shade or here in the Northwest, even full sun.

Procedures for planting - prepare a rich garden soil, that will provide good drainage. So the addition of compost; processed manure and/or peat moss, mixed with your existing soil, helps provide needed 'organic humus' for the plant roots. Dig a planting hole about twice the width and depth of the plants root system. Be certain to set the root ball at the same level as it was previously planted. If they are planted too deeply, it may result in poor flowering.

Moving/Transplanting - magnolias are not the easiest plant to transplant. In fact, they can be difficult to move once they have become established, so it is important to select a location that will be permanent. Since most varieties will grow into large shrubs or small trees, be sure to choose a spot where they will have ample space in which to grow.

Pruning - almost without exception, magnolias have interesting growing shapes and seldom require pruning of any kind. If pruning is necessary the best time to do it, is immediately after they have flowered.

Mulching - bark, sawdust or similar materials can be used to mulch at the base of magnolias, to help protect the lower stems and trunk from scorching by hot summer sunshine. Plantings of perennials or low growing shrubs accomplishes the same results.

Pests - this is one plant that is seldom bothered by pests. Mildew can occasionally be troublesome on some varieties. Use an all purpose fungicide, if it becomes a problem. If ants, root weevil or other crawling insects become a problem, wrap the lower trunk with a four inch band of masking tape, then spray a product like 'Tanglefoot' over the masking tape. Then as the insects crawl-up the trunk, they get stuck in the sticky 'Tanglefoot' spray. Slug and snails, if hungry will eat the bottom leaves of magnolias.

Feeding - the best time to fertilize magnolias is in late winter or earliest spring. Use a 'rose type' fertilizer when feeding them. Be sure the fertilizer contains magnesium; iron; and sulfur.

Varieties - the following are five of my favorites: needless to say, there are many new named varieties, so be sure to check them out, before deciding which one to include in your garden:

Magnolia Stellata - this one flowers first in our garden. It is commonly called the 'star magnolia'. There are several varieties, but the white and pink ones are best known. Flowers are multi-petalled and have a mild fragrance. Eventual growing height is about eight to ten feet with a width of twelve to sixteen feet.

Magnolia Soulangeana - large tulip-shaped flowers in shades of white pink and deep purplish-rose. This is the one most often called the 'Tulip Tree'. (By the way there is a 'Tulip Tree', Liriodendron Tulipifera, but the flowers are greenish and only about two inches in size.) The flowers on this one are about six inches across, or larger. There are several new varieties. Growing heights vary from twenty to twenty-five feet or more, with a similar width.

Magnolia Sieboldii - often referred to as the Oyama Magnolia. The flowers are white, with scarlet stamens, and have a pleasant fragrance. The flowers hang, instead of standing erect as most magnolias. The flowers open in succession over a long period of time in early summer. It grows about eight to twelve feet high and wide.

Magnolia Liliflora - the large flowers are white inside, with a purplish shading on the outside. The variety of 'Nigra' is also popular because it flowers for many weeks and the flower colors include a pinkish-rose inside. Nine to twelve feet in height and width.

Magnolia Grandiflora - this is the one with the large glossy green, attractive evergreen leaves. The large summer flowers are pure white and very fragrant. It is often called the 'Southern Magnolia'. Heights range from twenty to forty feet or more, here in the Northwest. Width is usually about half the height, or less. Some great varieties, take a look at 'St. Mary's' and 'Little Gem'.

You will probably want to find at least one spot in your garden, for at least one of the showy magnolias. The best time to select and plant them, is when they are in bloom.


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