Monday, 30 May 2011

Deciduous Magnolia

The English diarist Dr Samuel Johnson once said that "when men grow old they start planting trees". This may well be true in the 18th century but why wait now? Late autumn and early winter is without doubt the best time to buy and plant most new plants and the mild temperatures allow young trees almost six months to establish a root system before the onset of summer heat.

Deciduous magnolias come mainly from cool temperate parts of China and Japan. They are slow-growing but make wonderful specimens in temperate wind protected gardens.

While I usually say you should wait to see a plant in bloom before you buy, the magnolia is an exception as you're better off trusting the picture on the plant label and planting now. If you wait until the usual flowering time in late winter and early spring before you buy the young plant often lacks early vigour because they miss out on that cool settling-in period before summer. Many a magnolia has died during its first summer because it has been planted too late in the season.

In the right spot deciduous magnolias live for many decades, so with a bit of luck you'll be enjoying your trees in your old age - not still planting them.

Now what are you favourite varieties of deciduous magnolia? Suggestions welcome.

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