Allie Kaspersetz

15 April 2022

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Home Notes from the Garden

Spring Magnolias

Spring Magnolias

When the weather is favorable, spring often arrives at Greenwood with clouds of soft pink blossoms on our star and saucer magnolias. This year, frigid temperatures literally nipped the emerging magnolias in the bud, preventing the blossoms from opening to their full glory. Even so, the trees themselves are not harmed and we can keep our fingers crossed that next year weather conditions will promote a glorious display of marvelous magnolia flowers.

Named after the French botanist, Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), magnolias were among the first plants on earth to produce flowers pollinated by insects and are thought to have predated bees. There are over 175 varieties of magnolias known worldwide and the three most common species in New Jersey are the saucer, star, and southern magnolias. Greenwood Gardens is home to all three. It is the saucer magnolia, Magnolia x soulangeana, and the star magnolia, M. stellata that provide the spring spectacle. The southern magnolia, M. grandiflora, flowers during the summer months.

The flamboyant, deciduous saucer magnolia, Magnolia x soulangeana grows at the Carriage House and by the Summerhouse. French plantsman Étienne Soulange-Bodin (1774–1846), a retired cavalry officer in Napoleon’s army, is credited with breeding this hybrid and it was quickly embraced by English, European, and North American plant enthusiasts.

Two magnificent, deciduous star magnolias have flourished for many decades between the Teahouse and Cascade. Native to Japan, specimens may be found growing wild in the Ise Bay area of central Honshū, Japan’s largest island.