Magnolias from My Neck of the Woods to Yours

As a young child growing up on a farm in Hawkinsville, the native flora that surrounded me instilled this Farmer with a love for the indigenous plants that I still treasure today. One native plant family I have always admired is the magnolia clan, with the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) and its cousins, the big leaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) and the sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), growing wild along our creek, down towards the Ocmulgee River, and in the woods in between.

Evergreen, long lasting in arrangements and native across wide portions of the country, the magnolia has become a quintessential specimen in the Southern landscape. From holiday bouquets to garden backdrops, I have come to rely on a variety of magnolia species and cultivars not only as constants in nature’s tableau, but as mainstays for decorating and bringing the garden indoors.

I will arrange their velvety brown backs for contrast in compositions, float single blossoms in a pretty bowl, or arrange branches laden with buds to herald the coming spring– whatever the use, I have a magnolia in mind.

Here are a few magnolias no garden or landscape should be without for year round interest and seasonal splendor:

  • Magnolia grandiflora ‘Alta’-This fastigiate or columnar growing species is ideal for screening and high hedges and wonderful architectural accent to the landscape.
  • Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’-Smaller leaves and flowers than other magnolias; this showstopper boasts lustrous green leaves with cinnamon brown backing and blooms profusely throughout the warm months. ‘Little Gem’ is one of my favorite magnolias to use in decorating the house any time of year.
  • Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’- “BBB” for short, this is a typical magnolia in my mind’s eye. Large green leaves, velvet-like brown backs on the leaves, and large, alabaster colored flowers that scent any garden or room with a single bloom.
  • Magnolia grandiflora ‘Claudia Wannamaker’- Claudia, as she is known in the landscape world, is a true success story, for this pyramidal growing specimen blooms from an early age, boasts gorgeous foliage, and is more tolerable of northern exposures.
  • Magnolia grandiflora ‘Teddy Bear’ – Appropriately named for the dense indumentum or fuzz on the back of the leaves. Very compact, this slower growing magnolia will surely be a fun addition to the garden or décor.
  • Magnolia soulangiana or Japanese magnolia-one of the first signs of spring, this “tulip tree” bursts forth in the early vernal season with a show of magenta, fuchsia, lavender, pink and white blossoms paired against elegant gray bark. The velvet covered buds make for striking winter displays as well.

  • Magnolia stellata- The star magnolia is a small tree to larger shrub with white or pink flowers in late winter or early spring. This striking specimen is sure to be a star in your garden.