Magnolias are, indeed, magnificent. Fragrant blooms are literally frisbee size on some. On others, beautiful yellow or magenta flowers unfurl on bare branches in early Spring. With hundreds of magnolias, there are so many possibilities. The Missouri Botanical Garden provides a great overview.
The magnolia at the top on the left, and to the right, is a type of evergreen magnolia grandiflora. These types of magnolias, often called southern magnolias, are common in our area and some are native to the southeastern United States.
One of the most interesting magnolia possibilities is the magnolia native to the mid-Atlantic, often called sweetbay (Magnolia Virginianus). Sweetbay, at the top on the right, is a fantastic addition to the garden and one that will have friends asking “what is that?” Sweetbay blooms in late spring and early summer. Blooms are smaller than grandiflora magnolias and have a lemony fragrance. The leaves are semi-evergreen. For 6 years, our sweetbay magnolia has held its leaves through winter.
The silvery, sometimes shimmering, leaves add texture and color. The photo to the left shows the contrast between Sweetbay magnolia in the front and an evergreen holly behind. Sweetbay magnolias grow in vase shapes as well as a traditional tree shape. They are easy to care for and tolerate clay soils. The seed pods are also gorgeous.
Adding a magnolia? Please consider our own native. It’s a subtle stunner!
For more information:
More photos of blooms, leaves and seedpods.
A local fact sheet from Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.