Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Magnolia Flowering Trees

Most modern landscapes cannot support huge trees. Fortunately, most trees have dwarf varieties or similar smaller species to choose from. When choosing small flowering trees, it is a good idea to consider how they will look in every season. There are fewer broadleaf evergreen flowering trees to choose from than there are deciduous trees.

Evergreen Magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora is a beautiful tree if given the right conditions. The large white fragrant blooms in early summer are unsurpassed. The species is a 40-50 foot tree, but there are smaller cultivars more suited to our climate.

Magnolia 'Brackens Brown' is a 20-foot tree. It gets its name from the felt-like brown layer on the underside of the leaves. Magnolia 'Brackens Brown' is a 20-foot tree. It gets its name from the felt-like brown layer on the underside of the leaves. Magnolia grandiflora 'Edith Bogue' is a columnar 15-20 foot variety. It will reach a similar height, but will fit into a narrower space. The smallest evergreen magnolia is Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem' at 15-20 feet.

There are things to consider when choosing any type of magnolia for the landscape. They have delicate, brittle roots so extra care is needed when planting. They do not like to be disturbed once they are established. The evergreen magnolias are dense and will create shade beneath them, so grass may not do well, and only shallow-rooted, shade-loving plants should be placed below them. Evergreen magnolias like full sun and average water.

There are deciduous magnolias that are smaller yet. A popular one is the Lily Magnolia, Magnolia 'Liliflora', which develops purple tulip shaped blooms before the leaves in spring. It will sometimes bloom again in summer in our region.

A wonderfully scented magnolia with yellow blooms is Magnolia'Butterflies'. This one will top out at around 20 feet. An underused magnolia is Magnolia 'Seidoldii', which has white open flowers and burgundy stamens. Once mature it can bloom sporadically all summer. It is only 10 feet tall, so it could be classified as a tall shrub. Most magnolias are as wide as they are tall, so they do take horizontal space in the garden.

Another good smaller evergreen tree is the Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo. It has elongated thick evergreen leaves and attractive reddish stringy bark. In late summer it develops clusters of white urn shaped flowers followed by red winter berries.

The berries are rounder in shape, but are dimpled like strawberries, though they are mealy and bland. The birds will take them off your hands before they can make a mess. There will be green, orange and red berries on the tree at the same time. The compact strawberry tree has smaller leaves and in my landscape has reached 12 feet.

Crape Myrtles are great small late summer flowering trees. They range from 10-to-30 feet in size. These are drought-tolerant trees that need full sun, and perfect drainage. They will develop clusters of white, pink, salmon, purple or red flowers. They bloom in late summer or early fall and are sweetly scented. Make sure the variety of crape myrtle you choose is hardy to zone 8, or lower for our area. When choosing flowering trees for your landscape, think beyond flowering cherries.