Friday, April 1, 2011

Forced Magnolia Blossoms - Our First Ever!

After seeing branches of magnolia blossoms mingled with forsythia, both of which had been forced for blooming at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society's Flower Show this year, I went outside and snipped a few branches and brought them in.Forcing forsythia is nothing new; I've done it almost every year since I was a young a child. But I must admit that I had a certain amount of skepticism with regard to the magnolia blossoms, so I'm pleased to be able to share this photograph of the first magnolia bloom I have ever forced indoors in spring. On the tree, the petals are much larger and while they are the same creamy color, they have burgundy tinting along the edges and  and a deep burgundy throat,  and the blooms are at least three times the size of this blossom. I'm not sure if adding a small amount of dilute fertilizer would improve the size and quality of the forced blooms or not, but since our two Elizabeth magnolias and our star magnolia are also budded, I am going to experiment and see if it makes a difference.

Still a mystery to us is the identity of  what appears to be a June flowering magnolia that sets buds and blooms after the tree is fully leafed out. The blooms are a homogenous rich ivory color and have the classic saucer magnolia shape and petal arrangement. At left is a photograph of a leaf cluster and the seed pod taken last summer after it finished blooming.

We purchased the tree at a local family owned garden center. It was one of three trees that we got at the end of the season. The trees had been discounted by 70% and although we didn't realize it at the time, all three had been mislabeled so all were complete surprises when they bloomed the following spring

The magnolia had been tagged as a dogwood but comparing the leaves and the arrangement of the leaves on the branches and twigs, there was no similarity to our other dogwoods. When the blossoms appeared at the end of June, we were stunned to see saucer shaped magnolia blossoms. If anyone knows the particular variety of this magnolia, we'd love to identify it. I'll try to post a picture of the blossom later this summer.

A bargain priced white dogwood was actually a brilliant, carmine-blooming red Chinese dogwood. In the photograph at left, it is situated in the middle of the picture, just to the left of the Japanese maple and behind the deep rose azalea.

What makes the fact that we got this tree so unusual is that I had wanted a red dogwood but was told by the nursery manager that they were expensive and didn't sell well, so they didn't carry them. This tree looked like a dogwood and I had no reason to suspect it was anything but the white dogwood I expected until it bloomed the next spring. When we went to the garden center the following year for spring purchases, I told them about the tree and they told me it was "impossible". When the blossoms first open, it is the same color as the azalea - a striking image behind the waterfall.

Rose of Sharon grown as a standard
A tree labeled "Japanese snowberry" (which, incidentally, looks nothing like a true Japanese snowberry), is actually a Rose of Sharon grown as a standard - something else we don't know what to do with, since the leafed and blooming branches are too heavy to remain erect on the trunk.

The first couple of years, it wasn't an issue as the branches were short. Now that the tree is maturing, the top is taking on the conformation of a shrub and the trunk isn't able to support the growth. We've talked about pruning it back into a round shape or weighting the branches and pulling them down around the tree in an umbrella fashion. Once they are leafed out and blooming, the branches naturally tend to lean and bend down toward one side, causing the tree to tilt awkwardly. By tieing the branches together, we've been able to keep it upright.

Our thought was that since they naturally seem to want to bend anyway, why not train them to bend and cascade down in a more balanced way? We were initially discourage from even attempting this, but at this point, our only other option is to either seriously bob the tree and keep it pruned, or dig it out and replace it. We'll keep you all posted?

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