“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” — John Lubbock. 

“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.” — Sam Keen. 

“Summertime is always the best of what might be.” — Charles Bowden. 

“When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble is too difficult to overcome.” — Wilma Rudolph.

The genus, Magnolia, includes about 120 species with many hybrids and cultivated varieties (cultivars) whose flowers are often large with fleshy petals with ovoid-shaped leaves (some are glossy). Fragrance can be found in the bark, twigs, and flowers. These magnolias include southern magnolia, star magnolia (Magnolia stellata cultivars Scented Silver and Kikuzaki) and lily magnolia (Magnolia lilliflora) including such compact forms as Al's Dwarf and Mini Mouse, as well as O’Neill with dark-purple flowers. The magnolia is a southern favorite!

Magnolias are deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs. These magnificent flowering plants feature blossoms in white, pink, red, purple, or yellow. Magnolia trees offer diversity in leaf shape and tree form, and are somewhat deer tolerant. Native to the United States from North Carolina to Florida to Texas, few trees can match its stately elegance. It can grow to heights of 80 feet or more with a 40-feet spread. This means large space areas are needed and many of our modern landscapes can’t accommodate a tree of such stature due to obvious space limitations. However, its huge, fragrant white flowers and large, oblong leaves make it a very desirable tree for the southern landscape. Thus, dwarf cultivars have been developed in the last few years that allow small landscapes to enjoy such a desirable tree.

Tree shapes include pyramidal, columnar, and compact. Three popular varieties have pyramidal shapes like the native southern magnolia including Majestic Beauty (large tree), Samuel Sommer (large flowers, shorter trees), and Edith Brogue (most cold tolerant). The columnar shapes include such southern magnolias (specimen trees or flowering evergreen screens and hedges) as Hasse with a tight column, and Kay Parris (a smaller tree which is thought to be a cross between Little Gem (compact) and Bracken’s Brown Beauty. And the compact (dwarf) shapes (the smallest southern magnolias suited for smaller landscapes) include Little Gem, Baby Doll, and Teddy Bear.

Compact cultivars include Little Gem which can grow slowly upwards to heights of 30 feet and about 15 feet wide and flowers at a younger age than most magnolias. It is an evergreen with white flowers with an awesome fragrance. Little Gem tolerates most soil types in full sun to part shade. Little Gem can also be grown as a container plant with proper pruning for size control. Also, Baby Doll which is shorter and grows to about 22 feet tall and wide. Teddy Bear is another dwarf magnolia which can grow upwards to 20 feet tall and about 10 feet wide. Its growth rate is faster than Little Gem. Teddy Bear is a compact evergreen with white flowers preferring full sun in well-drained soil. Teddy Bear is not as cold tolerant as Little Gem but can be grown in containers in colder climates, as long as it is brought indoors during the winter months. And Baby Grand (Magnolia grandiflora var. STRgra) which was discovered in Australia. This evergreen offers a rounded form with large, fragrant white flowers. Plant Baby Grand in full sun as a specimen tree or group planting and water frequently. It can withstand moist soils that can be problematic for most other trees.

In the massive world of magnolias, dwarf is a relative term since 20 feet high would be the compact version of a 60 feet tall common tree. The important consideration is how and where the tree will be used. 

Regardless of size, shape, or cultivar, southern magnolias require similar care. They can tolerate varied light conditions from full sun to part shade and different soil conditions including sand, clay and loam. They are tolerant of most pests and diseases. Pruning is only needed when certain shapes are preferred, such as espaliered forms. Their roots extend further outwards than most trees, approximately four times the distance from the trunk to the drip line.

Magnolia stellata "Royal Star" grows 10 to 20 feet tall and produces large white, star-shaped flowers in early spring. Royal Star (a deciduous magnolia) prefers rich, well-drained soil in full sun, but can tolerate light shade. It blooms later in the spring which makes it a great specimen planting. You can also plant several of these small magnolias together in a group planting for a tall hedge. Other cultivars include Centennial, Dawn, and Two Stones. Those with pink blooms include Rosea, Jane Platt, Rubra, and Water Lily.

The saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) is often called tulip tree because of the shape and bright color of their flowers. Early flowering selections are prone to frost damage. Cultivars include Alba Superba, Alexandrina, Black Tulip, Brozzonii, Lennei, Lilliputian, Rustica Rubra, and Verbanica.

Classified as a deciduous shrub rather than a tree, Magnolia "Ann" is cold hardy and grows 10 feet tall. Depending upon local climate, Ann may bloom from mid to late spring, producing a stunning display of purplish-red, chalice-shaped flowers. Ann may be used as a shrub planting or grown into full tree shape. Ann prefers an acidic, moist soil in full sun. Make the right choice and enjoy your magnolias!

In memorium to our little ones (malteses) who have gone on across the rainbow bridge and await our arrival – Marcus Lee Beowulf Seagle (2004-2019) and Graci Lee Baby Seagle (2006-2021). We miss y’all and love you so very much.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” — Psalm 127:1. 

“The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.” — Proverbs 10:21. 

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” — Galatians 5:1. 

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” — James 4:7.

Seagle is a Sustainability Verifier, Golf Environment Organization (Scotland), Agronomist and Horticulturalist, CSI: Seagle (Consulting Services International) LLC, Professor Emeritus and Honorary Alumnus (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College), Distinguished Professor for Teaching and Learning (University System of Georgia) and Short Term Missionary (Heritage Church, Moultrie). Direct inquiries to csi_seagle @yahoo.com.

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