Magnolia flowers all have the same arrangement, a spiral of elegant showy “petals,” but within this simple layout, a variety of colors, sizes and bloom times produce a fascinating array of diversity. In the late winter, Magnolia stellata (Star Magnolia), even before the leaves emerge, is covered with brilliant white narrow-petaled flowers glistening in the crisp air. In the warmth of the summer, Magnolia grandiflora (Southern Magnolia) fills the air with sweet fragrance. Its thick glossy evergreen leaves on the large-statured trees stand out in the winter as bold landscape elements, both in gardens as well as natural areas. The dramatic and tropical-looking, yet native, Magnolia macrophylla var. ashei can sport leaves more than 2 feet long. In late summer, the developing seeds are found at the tips of high branches in bright pink tough cone-like structures.
With specimens flowering from late-winter through mid-summer, the wide variety of leaves and sizes of plants, it's always a good time to visit these Garden hallmarks.
The Magnolias are also part of a multi-institutional collection through the Plant Collection Network program of the American Public Gardens Association. Many unusual and rare plants are being introduced from the Garden's International Plant Exploration Program. These new plants are first being trialed for performance and then introduced into the Garden landscapes.