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My Dear Magnolia Virginiana

magnolia virginiana

I am fortunate to have inherited one of our most attractive North American native trees, Magnolia virginiana.

It has been in my garden for many years and was a well-established resident long before I began gardening there almost 30 years ago. So it is certainly long-lived, as well as handsome.

Its common names are Sweet Bay Magnolia and Laurel Magnolia, and it is hardy in zones 5 through 9. It is a slow to medium grower and tops out at 10 to 20 feet tall and five feet wide. It has an upright oval habit, light grey smooth bark and dark green leaves that are silvery underneath.

In summer it produces small creamy-white blooms like magnolias in shape, as you might guess given the name. The flowers have a citrusy fragrance that makes me want to sniff them whenever I am nearby.

I also love the glossy red seeds that follow the blooms and ripen in September. They are 2 to 3 inches long and quite showy.

This tree will grow both in sun and in shade and is reputed to prefer acidic soils and be tolerant of wet soils. Mine grows happily in my clay soil on a slope, however, and is often dry so I must assume it is not fussy.

A cultivar ‘Green Shadow' is a cold-hardy evergreen. I actually know nothing of the pedigree of my tree, but I just love it!

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