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Magnolia Trees

Updated on July 13, 2015
Flowers of the magnolia bush
Flowers of the magnolia bush

The Magnolia x Soulangeana is also known as Saucer Magnolia: This hybrid is one of the most commonly used Magnolias in horticulture.

I have taken a batch of photos of the twenty-year-old Magnolia tree in my mom's front yard which is so spectacular it captures the attention of all passersby. Certain individuals park and unload their long-lens cameras. One has even entered the fenced-off premises, such was his ardor to capture the Magnolia flower's grand beauty.

The same happens with the fallen leaves in autumn. The Magnolia leaves rigid network provides the skeleton for various arts and crafts projects.

I will include photos of the Magnolia Stellata (also known as Star Magnolia); which has fluffy-looking white blossoms and is partially hidden by the garden shed.

Magnolia Bush
Magnolia Bush

Ice Ages & Beyond

History & Habitat

Named after French botanist, Pierre Magnol, the Magnolia is an ancient genus of 210 flowering plants. Fossilized specimens dating back 20 million years have been found, and others belonging to the Magnoliaceae family date back 95 million years, proving that the Magnolia has survived many geological events (such as ice ages, mountain formation and continental drift).

Since there weren’t any bees back then the flowers attracted beetles for pollination. Another ancient distinction of the Magnolia flower is that they have tepals enclosed in a bract rather than stepals and petals. The flowers are heavy, the tepals thick and velvety to touch. Their fruity scent varies between musty and delicate.

The natural habitat of the Magnolia species is widespread, with a main centre in east and southeast Asia. A secondary centre in eastern North America, Central and South Americas, and the West Indies. Not much of a ‘center’ considering the vast area, and the fact that all of my photos were taken up here in Canada, further demonstrating the hardiness of the species.

Carol Houle all rights reserved
Carol Houle all rights reserved

Hybrids & Cultivars

The Art of Horticulture

The Saucer Magnolia hybrid got it's nickname for it's shape, which is more cuplike in the first week that the flowers are in full bloom.

The plant was bred by Etienne Soulange-Bodin (1774-1846), a retired cavalry officer in Napoleon's army, at his chateau in France. He crossed Magnolia denudata with M. liliiflora in 1820, and was impressed with the first precocious flowering in 1826. Following this the hybrid quickly entered cultivation in England, other parts of Europe and North America.

Plant breeders in many countries have continued to develop this Magnolia, so now over a hundred named horticultural varieties exist.

Note: When purchasing this plant today it is already in bloom ~no need to wait six years.The Saucer Magnolia grows as a multi-stemmed shrub or large tree with shiny, dark green, coarsely veined leaves. The large flowers are various shades of white, pink and purple and bloom all at once in early spring while the tree is still bare of leaves.

The spectacular show of flowers lasts approximately three weeks, followed by the growth of leaves which lasts throughout the summer until autumn. Large buds, for the flowers of the following year, are formed after florescence and during the summer months.

Note: Squirrels love to eat those tender buds, so we feed them peanuts, crackers and toast (sometimes with a little peanut butter in winter).

Aime Houle
Aime Houle

My Dad's Magnolia

My father planted his five-foot Saucer Magnolia in April 1983 using a ton of moss and watering it each day to help it adapt to its new environment.

My dad had two green thumbs when it came to our garden. His giant golden tomatoes, grown from the seeds of tomatoes we'd bought in Virgina one summer during our vacation, grew rampant in the side plot of our yard. People would stop to ask about those huge strange yellow tomatoes. He sometimes gave them one to appease their avid curiosity.

His fabulous roses also lay testament to his devotion. Trim-trim-trim.

It is true that dealing with and touching ground is the best natural escape from the stuffy aerospace company and the crowded city life. This snipping of the vines and other plants helped to reset his gladness.

Soon after the Saucer Magnolia took he planted the Star Magnolia which also grew into a very tall tree, yet not nearly as tall and wide as the Saucer.

In the years that followed, people would stop to ask what kind of tree it was. Then a little while later we started noticing Magnolia bushes around the neighborhood. The really big trees are rare, but there are a few.

Magnolia Trunk Size in 2003

The trunk size of the Saucer Magnolia at approximately fifteen years of age; ten years after my father planted it.
The trunk size of the Saucer Magnolia at approximately fifteen years of age; ten years after my father planted it.

Early Spring 2012 - 20 Years After it was Planted

Approximately 30+ feet from the ground to the top.
Approximately 30+ feet from the ground to the top.

View From the Street - With Mailbox

Mailbox crafted by Patrick Julin circa 1995, still functional and looking good.
Mailbox crafted by Patrick Julin circa 1995, still functional and looking good.

Symphony of Beauty

Clusters of magnolia flowers
Clusters of magnolia flowers

Star Magnolia

Blooms of the Star Magnolia
Blooms of the Star Magnolia

Riot of Color

Blooms of the Saucer Magnolia
Blooms of the Saucer Magnolia

Magnolia Leaves for Various Projects

The coarse-webbed structure of the Magnolia leaf (once flattened and dried ~sometimes pressed between the pages of a book [phone book to worked for me]) may be used in many innovative and crafty ways. Some local artisans visit my mom in late summer, when the leaves are mature, to select some greenery for their many projects; textured paintings, greeting cards, wreaths, picture frames, and even jewelry.

Kissing the Sky

Top of the Magnolia tree against blue sky
Top of the Magnolia tree against blue sky

Winter 2013, March 19th - Mere hours before the first day of Spring

The Saucer Magnolia tree stands right behind the bird bath. It was my mom's birthday that day and all she got was a storm, cake and a couple of cute trinkets. It's only very pretty when you haven't had a LONG winter.
The Saucer Magnolia tree stands right behind the bird bath. It was my mom's birthday that day and all she got was a storm, cake and a couple of cute trinkets. It's only very pretty when you haven't had a LONG winter.

Star Magnolia Buds

The snow has all but melted and this blue jay hides among the Star Magnolia branches.
The snow has all but melted and this blue jay hides among the Star Magnolia branches.

May 2013

The greenery is actually the ash tree directly behind the magnolia. The magnolia will grow its leaves after the flowers' downfall.
The greenery is actually the ash tree directly behind the magnolia. The magnolia will grow its leaves after the flowers' downfall.

The Downfall - May 6, 2013

The petals disappear like magic in just a couple weeks, providing natural ground fertilizer.
The petals disappear like magic in just a couple weeks, providing natural ground fertilizer.

Birdbath

The new birdbath gets its first taste of magnolia.
The new birdbath gets its first taste of magnolia.

© 2013 Carol Houle

Comments are Welcome

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    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 3 years ago

      Very enjoyable and lovely plant. I bought one last spring and better get it planted no before the next spring arrives in a few weeks time (it's winter now in Canberra). Great pics and well presented lens.

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      Beautiful photos! Great lens. Enjoyed this so much.

    • paulahite profile image

      Paula Hite 3 years ago from Virginia

      What a great lens and story. I featured it on our Facebook page "The Green Thumb: A Place For Gardeners To Gather" today. Please like/share it with your friends!

    • Anthony Altorenna profile image

      Anthony Altorenna 3 years ago from Connecticut

      Magnolias have such magnificent blooms! We planted a Star Magnolia in memory of my mother, and I look froward to its blooms every spring.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 3 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I love your photo essay about your Father's magnolia. I have not seen the star variety in your side of the states.

    • profile image

      tonyleather 3 years ago

      Beautiful lens! Magnolias are such magnificent flowers!

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 3 years ago from Kansas

      Lovely magnolia trees. I remember our neighbor having a huge one while I was young. I would go over and ask to pick the flowers. :)

    • Carol Houle profile image
      Author

      Carol Houle 4 years ago from Montreal

      @anonymous: Thanks, Iris. my little sister. You've watched that tree grow, as I did. It's the crown jewel of our yard. I can't wait for the next blooms! Just a months and a bit longer....

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      i love it. to see such a beautiful magnolia baby bush, grow, and grow ,till it's a magnificiant part of a home.