(above image from Paul Parent Garden Club)
Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club (http://www.paulparent.com//) sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Magnolias (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:
"From Maine to Florida, when spring arrives, it is greeted with the one of the most beautiful flowering trees--the magnolia. This tree is reliable and will flower each spring no matter how hard the winter was. It will grow in most yards no matter what type of soil you have as long as there is no standing water. You can plant it on the front lawn as a specimen plant in full sun, or in the backyard in a small shaded garden. The magnolia will do well near the seashore if sheltered from the wind or plant it at a cottage near a lake or pond for early flowers. You even have your choice of flower size from the large cup-shaped 5 to 10 inch blooms or the smaller star type with 3 to 4 inch multi petal.
The Saucer Magnolia is the most popular with gardeners because of the large flowers, which resemble very large tulips with nine petals that stand up on the tips of leafless branches in April. Many years, if the spring weather is normal the magnolia will be in bloom for Easter. The flower color ranges from white, pink, purple and the new yellow variety. The bark of the tree is smooth, gray and very pleasant to look at even during the long days of winter. During the winter, the flower buds are very noticeable on the tip of the branches because of their size (almost as big as your thumb). The flowers will last for several weeks as long as there is no severe rain or wind storms as the flowers mature. With good weather, it should bloom for four plus weeks.
One of the qualities I think the magnolia has is the look it gives to your yard when all the flowers fall from the tree. The petals seem to fall all together, covering the ground like a blanket of petals around the tree. This blanket of colorful petals will last for several days as long as the weather is not too warm. The leaves--3 to 6 inches long and oval, with a smooth edge--will develop on the plant after the flowers fall from the plant in May. The leaves are also dark green and have a shine to them. Fall color on the magnolia is just a muddy yellow and not exciting to look at. The tree will grow to 20 to 30 feet tall and wide.
The Star Magnolia is more popular in a colder climate, as it can grow to minus 30 degrees and still flower every year. The plant is more shrub-like, with many stems developing from the base of the plant. Give this plant room, as it will grow 15 to 20 feet tall and can spread out to as much as 15 feet wide. The flowers are not as large--3 to 5--inches in diameter and resemble a pinwheel. The flower is made up of small petals in the shape of your finger 1/2 to 3/4 wide and 1 to 2 inches long. The Star Magnolia contains up to 30 petals per flower. Most varieties are pure white and because they are smaller, they will last longer on the tree. The wind seems to blow right through them, unlike the saucer type. They also have the same look, dropping flower petals like a blanket below the tree.
The best time to purchase a plant is in the spring when it is in bloom; that way you know what the color is when you buy it. The purple-pink flowering type of magnolia will have some that are more pink and others that are more purple in color, so you choose. When planting the magnolia, use plenty of compost in the hole to help the plant to develop a strong root system. To help hold moisture, use "Soil Moist" during the hot days of summer. Also, add Plant Tone or Tree Tone by Espoma to the hole as these products contain mycorrhizae to stimulate the roots and help make flower buds for next year. Use either of these products every spring to keep the flowers coming. One last treat: if the bees do their job, the plant will make a pod 3 to 4 inches tall which resembles a baby rattle. As the pod dries, small red seeds will develop inside the pod and the birds will eat them--or you can save them and start a new tree."