Trying to choose a magnolia

clickermel(z6a SW Ohio)April 16, 2012

We want to plant a magnolia near our kitchen window. We are in the Cincinnati area, so zone 6, but it's an incredibly warm zone 6 (it's been years since our temps have gone below zero, not counting the wind chill).

The biggest factor is fragrance. We want a beautiful classic magnolia fragrance that will carry. We can't get a standard species grandiflora because they're too big, but we have found some others that might work for us.

Would love giant saucer-type flowers, but that's not a must. Really want one that is evergreen or at least semi-evergreen.

Has anyone had experience with any of these that I list below? If so, can you please share which ones you like best and why?

Thanks so much!

Magnolias we are considering:

Magnolia "Porcelain Dove"

MAGNOLIA sieboldii 'Colossus'

Magnolia grandiflora 'Simpson's Hardy Magnolia'

Magnolia grandiflora 'Pocono'

Magnolia grandiflora 'Kay Parris'

Thanks again!

Mel

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

How big of a specimen, over time, are you thinking you are going to have? There really are few, if any that do not grow well over 10' tall and wide. A mature specimen of most of the smallest kinds will be something like 20' tall. Does your spot have enough room for a shrub or tree of that size? You won't be able to cut the ends off of the branches of a deciduous magnolia, in order to contain it without destroying its line pattern. Southern magnolia does have a little more flexibility, in fact it can and many times has been used for espalier and topiary.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 10:38PM
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clickermel(z6a SW Ohio)

20' to 25' wide is OK. More than that would be a problem. Height itself is not an issue. Thanks!

PS no good at topiary, and no real way to espalier.

Mel

    Bookmark   April 16, 2012 at 10:56PM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Evergreen magnolias all derive from the American m. grandiflora or, rarely, the Asian m. delavayi. There are smaller growing varieties, but smaller is a relative term -m. grandiflora can grow into an enormous tree. None of the evergreen types have the classic saucer type flowers of the so-called tulip magnolias, either.

Another important factor is how much snow you get. Some of the grandiflora varieties are hardy in Z6, but because they retain their leaves are very vulnerable to breakage under the weight of the snow that accumulates.

Your best bet is to check recommendations from your County Extension Service and, especially, Spring Grove Cemetary/Arboretum in Cincinnati.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 5:17AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

I was not suggesting that you undertake espalier or topiary, you apparently missed the point. Sweetbay magnolia might be a possibilty for you, climate and soil permitting. Flowers are small but appear during summer and smell good. And the leaves flash silver in breezes, an effect not provided by others.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 11:25AM
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clickermel(z6a SW Ohio)

We usually don't have too much snow -- this past year we had almost none -- but we've had some years with heavy snow. The area it will be planted is fairly sheltered. I read about one grandiflora cultivar that handled snow well, but can't remember which one it was. I've seen the spring grove cultivar online -- has anyone experienced the fragrance? I'd prefer an evergreen tree but if the fragrance filled the yard, a deciduous one could be in the running.

Sorry bboy, must have misinterpreted your comment re: topiary -- i see now you meant that it's more tolerant of different types of pruning. I did look at sweetbay and wondered about the fragrance. Is it strong? I saw a description of "lemony" fragrance but wasn't sure if that was accurate.

I am appreciative of the recommendations for what will live in my area, and also want to make sure the tree has an enveloping, strong fragrance to perfume the yard. It is to be planted as a memorial. Lots of people successfully grow Edith Bogue and BBB in this area; are they incredibly fragrant? Kay Parris is supposed to be an even better cultivar, from what I've read, but am not finding good descriptions as to its fragrance.

I know that cultivars sometimes lose the fragrance of their parents, so am hoping to find experiences with how these particular trees smell!

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 12:22PM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Fragrance is often a fairly subjective quality. Additionally, it is strongly influenced by environmental factors, including soil, atmospheric humidity and temperature. A magnolia grandiflora cultivar which perfumes the whole neighborhood in Savannah or Charleston may not do so in Cincinnati.

Michael Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants is a great reference to check. I would think staff members at the Spring Grove Arboretum would be an even better source of information about cultivars adapted to your specific area.

A dwarfish selection, not hybrid, of m. grandiflora to check is 'Little Gem".

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 3:43PM
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clickermel(z6a SW Ohio)

Thanks mainegrower. I will check with Spring Grove and see what their experiences have been. I will also look into Dirr's Manual.

I've read that many have had success with Little Gem too -- another for my list of potentials!

Mel

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 5:32PM
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clickermel(z6a SW Ohio)

Thanks mainegrower. I will check with Spring Grove and see what their experiences have been. I will also look into Dirr's Manual.

I've read that many have had success with Little Gem too -- another for my list of potentials!

Mel

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 5:33PM
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subtropix

You want to hear something ironic. I have lots of varieties of magnolias--mostly grandiflora but a deciduous saucer and a virginiana. Well, guess which one suffered in the freak, October snowstorm (in the snowless winter of 2012). The saucers around me, mine included had major damage. My southern ones were fine! We specialize in the heaviest snows and on this basis, I can suggest the following for not showing damage to snow loads--
Victoria, Edith Bogue, Little Gem, and Brackens Brown. My Teddy Bears do suffer as does Green Giant to some extent but it grows so darn FAST anyway! Even my Majestic Beauty has tolerated the loads but fotunately real ice storms are not too common here.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 7:26PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

'Little Gem' is more tender than the others and apt to break in half under snow loads. There are effectively no hybrids of M. grandiflora on the general market except perhaps for 'Monland'. And hybrid magnolias are usually still fragrant, although sometimes ones that don't smell much are encountered - 'Black Tulip' and 'Vulcan', for instance.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2012 at 11:08PM
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poaky1

I saw tons of Brackens brown beauty when I went to Florida. They are hardy in zone 6 also. They were really narrow and had a few flowers on those who weren't really large yet. They may have to be bought mail order unless you have good nurseries near you. I don't know anything about Little gem and other small Mags.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 10:04PM
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donnaroyston(z7a VA)

Sweetbay (M. virginiana) is such a lovely tree, beautiful even when not in bloom, and RareFind has some types that are surprisingly hardy in the north. You could check out their descriptions. It stays evergreen down to a certain temperature.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 5:33PM
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mainegrower(Z5b ME)

Magnolia virginia is a beautiful tree when grown in its native range. There are hardy selections, but when grown in colder climates, Z5 and Z6, it is semi-deciduous. To my eye, it looks pretty ratty and forlorn in winter even though it will survive the cold. It's purely a matter of personal taste, but a fully evergreen species like m. grandiflora or fully deciduous ones like the many hybrids look a lot better than the half and half of m. virginiana in colder areas.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 5:07AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Leaf retention of sweetbays depends on the genetics of the form being grown. Selections noted for being evergreen in the north are known. I'd look to see what the expectations are for named cultivars currently on the market before deciding I couldn't have an evergreen one where you are.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 12:27PM
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