March Flower of the Month: Magnolia liliiflora with Inspiration from Acer sucrose
It's that time of year when the days are warming up and the landscape is coming out of hibernation. Where spring color is gaining ground and last fall's crisp is loosing its footing.
Jonquils, Lenten roses, jasmine, and deciduous magnolias bursting into life. The buds are swelling on everything and the brilliant colors pop against evergreen plantings and man-made structures.
Amid this wide selection, I tried to hone in my excitement and focus on my featured flower (which my husband teases me is more of a blooming branch than "flowers." But hey, I am an Arborist--can't blame me for loving low maintenance blooms!) .
My inspiration came when I noticed the beauty of fall's spoils paired with the blooming promise for the coming year. I don't believe spring's early blooms would be quite so appreciated if we didn't stop and reflect on the unkempt beauty of nature--imperfect, and gnarly.
I often see imperfection as a flaw and something to be covered up or removed, but in trying to pick the perfect blossom for this month's newsletter, I found myself inspired by the darn sugar maples in the front yard that didn't even undergo the proper senesce in the fall.
The drought from last summer affected the proper abscission (a hormone build-up that tells the leaves to let go and "fall") -- so instead of brilliant yellow sugar maple leaves (Acer sucrose) last fall, we have dried brown foliage that wont leave its post until the new growth emerges and pushes last year's petioles off.
Don't worry though, I was sure to pair these spent leaves with plenty of fun, local blooms such as: coral flowering quince, Magnolia liliiflora, Bartlett and D'Anjou pear, Lenten roses, and some soon to be locals including: tulips, ranunculus, and roses!
Since nobody wants to learn how to stress their maples into keeping their leaves through the winter, I will skip straight to showcasing the beautiful Magnolia liliiflora or Lily Magnoilia--the species epithet (liliiflora) meaning lily-like flower.
How to Plant Magnolia liliiflora
Things to think about to find the right spot for your Lily Magnolia:
Size. The mature size is 10-15 ft. This is one of the smallest deciduous magnolia trees featuring a multi-caned vase shape structure.
Access to sun. The Lily Magnolia flowers best when in full sun, but can tolerate partial shade. The biggest concern with this deciduous magnolia is perpetuating winter temperatures at night. Consider avoiding southern sun exposure to delay blooms a few weeks in this variety. A tighter bud is less susceptible to winter injury.
What they look like in the off-season. The large green leaves of these magnolias are nothing to write home about after they bloom. However, their bloom is worthy of a specimen status, no question.
Access to other structures. Choosing a location with an evergreen backdrop will enhance the late winter, early spring show.
How to Care for Your Magnolia liliiflora
The Lily Magnolia likes a more acidic soil (pH 4.5-6). This is a drought tolerant tree once root stock is established. If you're anything like me, I love a plant that can idle once established!
Minimal pruning is required to keep these blooms in full force. Do any structural pruning only after the Lily Magnolia blooms to avoid cutting off your March lovelies.
To keep a nice young plant with an open framework (my personal pruning mantra):
Remove any dead wood.
Remove lateral branches that shoot into the center of the tree causing congestion. A congested framework will reduce airflow which can increase possible disease problems. Plus, I don't know about you, but I love an airy and layered plant.
When taking cuttings, prune back to a strong, outward facing bud to promote new growth toward the exterior of the plant.
Prune off lanky stems with awkwardly positioned branches--honestly, as hard as it is for me to ignore these (I have been called an aggressive pruner), I do my best to turn a blind eye, and target this funky guy the next season when I am taking cuttings!
How to Arrange your Magnolia liliiflora (& funky, old Acer sucrose)
Get your ladders, pole pruners, and hand saws--We're going up into the canopy! When cutting from your tree, use the pruning principals to remove potentially unwanted growth in the future. I like to spot prune these low maintenance woodies when I am harvesting blooms for an arrangement.
I encourage you to be inspired by the unexpected, take risks, be bold and have fun with all of mother nature's fruit--and don't be afraid to sink your creation into an unusual container!