The Star of Spring–the Mighty Magnolia

Author: Meera, February 24, 2017

My spouse hails from the Caribbean where a variety of magnolias grow, but many in the islands are under threat from deforestation and small distributions. He’s wanted to plant a magnolia tree since we moved to the farmette. Recently, on a rainy evening, we ventured out to our local nursery and purchased a Royal Star and a Jane magnolia for the large entrance area at the front of our property.



A honeybee checks out the blossom on this Royal Star magnolia

A honeybee checks out the center of the fragrant blossom on this Royal Star magnolia



Often, it is the m.  grandiflora that comes to mind when someone mentions a magnolia tree. It’s a big evergreen tree with glossy leaves, large tulip-shaped white flowers, and dense canopy. This tree blooms summer and fall, while other types of magnolias bloom before their leaves show in the spring.


Magnolias offer gardeners many options–evergreen or deciduous types, wide-range of flower colors, slow or fast-growing trees, and small to large and stately specimens. Named for the French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), the genus includes about 100 species.


Magnolia blossoms are fragrant and attract various pollinators. While some magnolias grow well in containers for a few years or as espaliers, the larger, showy trees are often planted along city streets and in parks.


Until we have settled on the exact planting site for each of our magnolias, they will remain in their pots. Where to plant them is an important decision since magnolias do not like to be moved once established. As a general rule, they need rich well-drained soil and benefit when the soil has plenty of organic matter like leaf mold, peat moss, and ground bark mixed in at planting time.



Unfurled buds of the Jane magnolia hold the promise of gorgeous blossoms to come.

Unfurled buds of the Jane magnolia hold the promise of gorgeous blossoms to come.



Magnolia trees must be planted no lower than their original soil level (where the trunk begins in the planting pot). Because they need plenty of water until established, it’s a good idea to dig a watering basin around them. Young trees must be staked to protect against wind damage.



We chose the Royal Star magnolia (magnolia stellata) because it can hold abundant and spectacular white (or pink) perfumed blossoms throughout spring into summer. Reaching a height of 15 feet with a canopy spread to 10 feet, this beauty looks magnificent against a garden fence. Such a barrier will help protect it against the wind and also create a foil for the blossoms. Come autumn, songbirds will feast on the high-fat content of the star magnolia’s capsules of orange seeds.



Still in its pot, this "Jane" magnolia is positioned in what will be its planting hole

Still in its pot, this “Jane” magnolia is positioned in what will be its planting hole



The Jane magnolia is one in a Little Girl series of hybrid magnolias that include: Ann, Betty, Judy, Pinkie, Randy, Ricki, and Susan. These magnolias were developed in the mid-1950s at the National Arboretum by Francis DeVos and William Kosar. Jane has large-cup flowers opening reddish-purple with white interiors. Shortly after the blossoms show, the leaves emerge as a coppery-red before turning green.


At the moment, our Jane magnolia, with its roots balled and wrapped in burlap and looking like a shrubby bush, is covered with an abundance of buds as yet unfurled. The buds hold the promise of the fragrant purple blossoms in a couple of weeks. This slow-growing magnolia will reach a height of 10 feet with a 10-foot canopy spread. The plant will be a sure show-stopper in any Northern California  garden, especially in spring.






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If you enjoy reading about gardening or other farm topics like keeping bees and chickens, check out my cozy mysteries–A BEELINE TO MURDER, THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE, and (coming Sept. 2017) A HIVE OF HOMICIDES (in the Henny Penny Farmette series from Kensington Publishing).


My farm-based novels feature delicious recipes, farming tips, chicken and beekeeping tips, sayings and, of course, a charming cozy mystery. The books are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, BAM, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.



The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series





The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016






The third novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series is due out in September 2017




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