Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Tree following, arrival of leaves

It’s already gone a whole month since last time I wrote about my tree, my lovely Magnolia soulangeana 'Heaven Scent', so now it’s about time for another update.

My tree grows in a large container on the sunny part of my patio, right at the back  against the fence. It is quite young still and I hope to keep it in the container for at least another 5 years or so – until the crown is so tall that I can walk under it and planting the magnolia in one of the flowerbeds in my tiny garden won’t be a problem.

My garden is west facing with a tall, 4m wall at the end. That creates semi-shade or shade in most of the garden except a small part of one of the flower beds and this part of the patio area. There are many plants to fight for this sunny spot, and some plants have to come and go on a rotation system!

Right now this spot is packed with plants and I actually have TWO magnolias here. Can you spot them both?

Let me take the smallest one out onto the path, a bit easier to see it now. This is my second magnolia, Magnolia soulangeana 'Red Lucky' which I bought at the same time as 'Heaven Scent' late last winter. I bought it because the nursery where I saw it, advertised that this is a dwarf, great for containers and that mature height would be 150cm (60”) and width 90cm (36”). How silly I was believing that....

But I must admit I was also drawn in by the beautiful photo of the magnolia on their website (which I have borrowed here) – obviously a rather mature specimen as it is flowering prolifically and I guess it has been pruned to shape over several years. Doesn’t it look spectacular? If it only was true and not Photoshopped....Well, I have looked up Magnolia soulangeana 'Red Lucky' and final height and width is....6m (almost 20 ft). I wrote to the nursery for an explanation, and asked how and when I should prune my magnolia to obtain what they showed in their photo. After 3 attempts I have given up, they have still not answered my question. After a year in the pot growing on my patio, 'Red Lucky' is 160cm tall (5'3"). I really haven’t got room for two full size magnolias, even though they both are single stemmed, so sooner or later I will have to be brave enough to get my secateurs out and do some chopping – hoping I can reduce it at least somewhat. But not this year I think.

Here are the two magnolias together and you can see that 'Red Lucky' to the left has smaller, lighter green leaves than  'Heaven Scent' to the right.

'Red Lucky' has never flowered, it is a very young magnolia, but 'Heaven Scent' flowered beautifully last month and left me with these amazing fruit cones. They look a bit like lots of greenflies stacked closely together on a distance, and I must admit I have more than once sighed and though Ugh! Are they on the magnolia too! – before realising it’s not actually greenflies, it’s just how the cones look like. OK, well I am due new glasses, but you must admit, they do look a bit like the greenflies that frequently stack on the new shoots of roses! (The aphids are terrible right now here in southern England, payback for the frost-free winter we have had!)

Speaking of roses, on either side of the 'Heaven Scent' I am growing roses. This is ‘Rob Roy’ and like most of the roses in my garden this one has buds ready to open – just waiting for a week of nice warm, sunny weather.

The plants surrounding the two magnolias are a mix of plants, but with a distinctive Mediterranean feel. Here are Callistemon rigidus, Phoenix canariensis, Lavandula angustifolia 'Munstead' and Nerium oleander. But there are also a huge container grown Hemerocallis 'Sammy Russel', an even bigger container with trailing fuchsias and  a newcomer to the garden; some Zantedeschia aethiopica I hope will flower this summer.

The fuchsias will take a walk-about soon, as this area will be too hot for them during the summer so it will be better to spend the summer and autumn at the bottom of the garden where all the spring bulbs now have gone.

All these plants surrounding the two magnolias are not there just to fill up the patio, they serve a purpose too; to protect the roots of the magnolias from ‘cooking’ in the hot summer. All these big plants in containers in front of the magnolias will take up the heat and provide shade for the roots so they keep cool and moist. I had no problem keeping my magnolias well hydrated last summer, and that was one of the best summers I have experienced in the 15 years I have been in London. As the magnolias grow and fill the containers I hope my plan will work and that they will continue to be happy here.

And before I end today I just have to show you my Clematis ‘Niobe’, it has got nothing to do with magnolias or ‘tree following’ at all, but I just want to show you how lovely it looks right now.

It has been flowering since 28th April, and I have never had flowers in early May before, certainly not in April. The other two pruning group 3 clematis’ in my garden are right behind with flowers ready to pop pretty soon. My next post will be GBBD on the 15th May so I will have lots more flowers to show you then.

I am linking today’s post with Lucy at Loose and Leafy who’s hosting the ‘Tree following’ meme. If you head over to her blog you can see a lot of other trees of all sorts and shapes. Until next time, take care.

41 comments:

  1. It's a great post about the tree following Helene. At this moment I really look at the internet carefully before I buy anything. I made mistakes with buying roses from a photo. I bought a rose named Barock but it is not. I wrote several emails to the internetshop but they don't like to answer it at all. I hope someone can tell you how to shape your magnollia's so they stay at a size to handle in your garden.
    Have a wonderful day Helene.

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    1. Thanks Marijke, I am going to let the tallest magnolia, ‘Heaven Scent’ grow as it wants to, that was the plan. But still not sure what to do with the smaller magnolia so I might ask around a bit more before I start chopping off branches! I have bought roses too with wrong labels in the past, very annoying, but as I often buy plants out of season as they are cheaper, it’s difficult to check that the label is correct. I have bought wrongly labelled plants directly from nurseries I have visited too, many years ago, because the plants were not in flowers at that time.

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  2. I'd name and shame the nursery and then email them the link to your post giving them the right to reply. Maybe then they will resp/ond

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    1. Well, I was in two minds whether to name and shame them, but now I have decided - they still sell the magnolia but I think it is more expensive, I am quite sure I bought it last March for £19.99 or something like that. They are called The Vernon Geranium Nursery and they still got exactly the same information about my magnolia as they had last year.

      And here you can see the same magnolia sold at Thompson & Morgan, funnily enough they use the same photo! And here, ‘Red Lucky’ grows to 6m wide and tall according to them. I have also found several other websites that says 6m and some that says 3-4m. Since I didn’t get any answer from The Vernon Geranium Nursery I have been thinking of writing to Thompson and Morgan instead and ask them how I can obtain that shape on the magnolia, as they also show the same photo. But I can’t see how that can be possible on a magnolia supposedly reaching a mature size of 6m tall and wide – but you never know, perhaps I will get an answer from them…..

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    2. Sorry, not easy to see, but both companies in my comment above are clickable links :-)

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  3. There are companies I won't order from anymore just because of their misleading advertisements. There's quite a difference between 5 feet and 20 feet! I hope your pruning works to keep the magnolia to a manageable size. It's been a good year for magnolia trees here, and although we don't have one anymore, I've been enjoying all the ones I see all over town. 'Niobe' is beautiful!

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    1. Yes, I know what you mean Rose, there is one company I have stopped shopping plants from too, as I am tired of receiving dormant plants – or even a stick of root, when I expect a potted live plant, and there was no information to tell me what I would receive. And as Chloris is suggesting a bit further down here, I have been wondering for a long time if my ‘Niobe’ actually is ‘Niobe’ after all, as it isn’t dark enough. Another plant from the same company I have stopped shopping from!

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  4. Very misleading. Actually dwarf Magnolias do no exist, nurseries sometimes also sell dwarf conifers, the same, may be they grow slow but the word dwarf is wrong.
    Greenflies in the roses is a real nuissance at the moment, first due to the mild winter and second it is already a long time very dry, we had only a few showers for a long time. I think it is a good idea to keep ´Heaven Scent´ for about 5 years in the pot, but I suppose than it will be necessary to plant the tree in the soil.
    With you a lot of succes in your beautiful garden.

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    1. Going back on their website it doesn’t actually say ‘dwarf’ magnolia there, so that might be me who remember wrong. What they do say, and did say in the email they sent me back was that growing this magnolia as a ‘standard’ would restrict its growth and therefore limit it to a total of 150cm tall. Which I now know is utter rubbish. ‘Red Lucky has grown 30cm already since I got it a year ago and is 10cm taller than it should be at final height!

      I will keep an eye on ‘Heaven Scent’ and if it seems unhappy in the container – and the next size up container I will give it, I will just have to plant it in the ground. Hopefully it will be OK for a good few years.

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  5. Your ‘Niobe’ clematis is really, really pretty! I have never heard of a nursery being so deceitful! I must say I am amazed how small the plant pot is for your 'Red Lucky'. It certainly has gorgeous foliage. The fruit on the 'Heaven Scent' does look like green aphids or flies. I will have to pay more attention to my own magnolia. I have never noticed the fruit.

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    1. I have deliberately given ‘red Lucky a small pot for now, so it should not feel too cosy and stretch out too much, it probably won’t flower for another few years anyway as it isn’t big enough yet. I will re-pot in a year or two when it is established, I bought it bare-root and had no problem fitting all the roots into this pot so I don’t think it will be pot bound for a good while!
      I hope the fruit cones will look a bit prettier as time goes by :-)

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  6. Over all look so beautiful! Your fuchsia always make me so excited!

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    1. Thanks Endah, there will be lots more fuchsias in next post so stay tuned :-)

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  7. Helene,
    One of my pet hates is plant labels that don't tell the full story! I don't shop online for plants but have learned enough now to use the internet on my phone when I'm shopping when I come across something that sounds too good to be true. That is the reason I like shopping local at independent nurseries. I know this is not an option for you however. Just how many others fall for these ploys, heaven knows. You should name and shame.
    I can't grow these beautiful Magnolias up here, for obvious reasons and have to rely on my wee M. stellata - it's been nice following yours.
    Your Clematis too! Wow!!! with a capital WOW! My Ville de Lyon that I transplanted has done well and should look just as good soon enough - I hope!
    Enjoy your week :)

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    1. Hi Angie – well I have named them, see comments above :-)
      Not sure why you couldn’t grow a Magnolia soulangeana? Most Magnolia soulangeana are hardy down to USDA zone 5, some even to zone 4. I suppose with colder climate it would just flower later. Mine is supposed to be a late flowering magnolia and shouldn’t flower until May, but perhaps because we had such a mild winter it flowered in March instead. And as Chloris below is saying, my clematis might very well be ‘Ville de Lyon’ too! I have wondered for years why mine is so much lighter than all the photos I have seen online!
      Hope you have a great week too, it’s going to rain every day here for the next 10 days, but it’s mostly just teasing – can’t believe I actually want proper rain now, after 4 months of rain during the winter, but my garden is dry now. More photos of my clematis, whatever its name is on the 15th !

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  8. I do like Magnolias that flower when young, your Heaven Scent is a lovely one.
    What a lovely clematis and blooming so early. My Niobe is very dark, yours looks more like Ville de Lyon, or anyway, not Niobe. Do you think it could be another case of muddled labels?

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    1. Thanks Chloris, yes, I have thought for many years that my ‘Niobe’ didn’t really look like everyone else’s! But I know they can vary so I haven’t really been that bothered. And I still got the label for it, just dug it out to have a look! The photo is a bit faded after about 10 years, but I can see where I bought it from. I think ‘Niobe’ looks lovely on all the photos I have seen of it, much darker, perhaps I should buy one (not from the same company!), and then they can grow together :-)

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  9. I can see why you couldn't resist putting in a picture of the clematis. It's really dramatic. I like your Red Lucky magnolia too. A shame it's growing beyond what you expected. I've been thinking how good it would be to have a bonsai tree in our Tree Following. Maybe this could be a late reducer?

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    1. It’s funny you mention Bonsai trees, I grow several different Bonsais from scratch and I have already thought of having one of them as my tree to follow for next year :-)
      Magnolias are not suitable to grow as Bonsais though, they would not flower – which is kind of the point of having magnolias. But I will try to shape it a bit when it has grown a bit bigger, shape rather than reduce in size.

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  10. Your Clematis is amazing! Thanks for taking us on a tour of where your tree sits, and for sharing information about your two Magnolias. The Magnolias (various spp.) are blooming here now, and they're so beautiful!

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    1. I agree, the clematis is beautiful!

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    2. Thanks Beth, my garden has an early spring and summer this year, that happens now and then but I have never seen clematis flowers this early.

      Thanks Aga, it is one of my oldest plants, 10 years this spring.

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  11. I bought two magnolia trees early spring and planted one directly into the soil and the other one in the pot, but none of them shows any signs of life. I'm quite upset and will have to contact the nursery. The clematis is so pretty, I'm waiting for mine to bloom:)

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    1. The magnolias should have got leaves by now, even though they perhaps won’t get flowers yet – that depends on which type you bought and how mature they are, some will take years to flower.

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  12. Lovely young magnolia, Helene. If you prune it I think it will grow slower and may be in two stems. My magnolia 'Susan' is very similar to your 'Red Lucky' by color and leaf shape. I dug the hole to plant it but the weather is too cold for planting. This clematis is stunning! How lovely is your garden Helene!

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    1. Thank you Nadezda, I will prune the smaller magnolia, I really have not got space for them both to grow up to full size! I know ‘Susan’, it is lovely, I looked at it when buying mine, the reason why I ended up with mine was that I could get a quite big size specimen as a single stemmed tree. If I could have chosen any, I would have liked to have ‘Nigra’ , but I could not find anyone selling it as a single stemmed tree – so I ended up with ‘Heaven Scent’ :-)

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  13. I enjoyed reading about 'Heaven Scent' and 'Red Lucky'. We had a lovely Stellata in our last home. My TF Silver Birch is still at the catkin phase this month ...

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    1. Thanks Caroline, my ‘Heaven Scent flowered in March so it feels like a long time ago now. Silver birch is a lovely tree, I used to have an enormously tall, weeping one in my last garden in Norway before I moved over here in 1999, it was gorgeous and announced spring for me every year.

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  14. Good update on the magnolia and I enjoyed seeing how you plan for it in your garden with a tour. The clematis is so pretty. Red Lucky is a beauty if you can get it to look like that. The nursery is deserving of being named as they have not responded and not corrected the listing.

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    1. Thanks Shirley, I did get a reply from the nursery, just not an answer to my question! The first answer was obviously wrong, when I pointed that out I got a rubbish reply the second time, the third time no answer at all. Typical avoiding the issue, and as you all can see, the information on their site still says this particular magnolia will only grow to 150cm tall.

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  15. I've never ordered plants from a catalog. I drool over plant catalogs all the time, but I always wonder how the plants will survive our blazing Texas heat in a cardboard box. Still, those catalogs can be so enticing. I'm sorry to hear they don't always deliver what they say.

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    1. I am very happy with most of the online companies I am ordering from, and being disabled and practically housebound, for me this is now the only option I have to do not only plant shopping but everything I need – including my groceries. It’s very convenient and most of the time I get what I expect. But misleading product description is one problem and lack of response from companies when I do ask for more info is another. But overall I find shopping from Internet an easy and very pleasant experience and I used to do it long before I had to!
      As for plants surviving in a card box…I don’t order plants in the summer, and not during a cold spell in the winter if we have one, we don’t have frost every year so that varies. Most plants are available for sale all year over here, they just aren’t necessary in flower, but that’s actually often an advantage as they might be cheaper when not in flower. If you drool over plants that you can’t get in your local nursery then give it a go, but send them an email and ask when it will be the best time to order so the plants will have the best chance to survive your climate. They will have answered questions like that before!

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  16. Hmmmm.... how naughty to mislead you on the magnolia height, even worse not to respond to you. I'm sure you'll still be able to nurture a beautiful specimen to a height that suits you.
    As always your garden leaves us inspired & in awe x

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    1. Thanks Jane, I have decided to let the small magnolia grow as it wants to this year and get snipping next spring :-)
      As for buying plants online, I am far from deterred, I have tonight ordered summer bedding plants for the window boxes in my front garden from plantmenow.co.uk. If you have never bought from them have a look, the quality and size of the plants they deliver is amazing – and the plants come the day they say they will, you can even track their van online on the day of delivery!

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  17. Shame about Vernon's, I have used them in the past but for Geraniums, perhaps they should stick to what they know but still no excuse for not replying to you. I am not surprised that everyone is avoiding the pruning issue as Magnolias notoriously resent being pruned, I just hope you find someone with the knowledge and not just with the graphic software!

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    1. The magnolia wasn’t grown in their nursery, it came from Thompson & Morgan, so I can’t for my life understand why they give out final height as they do. I have also used Vernon’s for geraniums, was annoyed with them last year as I ordered 20 seedlings for delivery by end of April – with a promise on the website that they would be delivered when it would be suitable for planting out. As I don’t have a greenhouse I confidently ordered beginning of March to be sure they would not be out of stock. The plants arrived during one of the worst snow storms we had in mid-March last year, all more or less dead, in tatty, wet cardboard in the postman’s bag. I can’t for my life understand why they don’t use courier service. I am never ordering from them again for that reason too. I use plantmenow.co.uk for bedding and seedlings - the best delivery service you can think of, and plant quality you can only dream of.

      I have read a lot about magnolia pruning, as far as I have understood, a young magnolia will accept pruning better than an older and established one. I hope that is the case? Time will tell, Red Lucky is growing incredibly fast, maybe I should just give it the first round of pruning this year….

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  18. I have found that the mature size of plants is often understated. I once read an explanation that "mature size" is what one can expect in 10 years. (Note: not ten years after one buys it, but ten years after it was propagated. A tree may be several years old when one purchases it.) Like the plant is going to quit growing then. Many trees are just getting going good at that stage. My "dwarf" crepe myrtles were advertised to become 3 feet; now they are easily six, and they are that size only because I prune them back every year.

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    1. Yes, a good example of that is yew trees, often sold with ‘mature size’ as so and so – taking size after 10 years as mature, but a yew tree continue to grow for thousands of years! But other plants actually do grow to a certain size and then stop, I have a rhododendron in my garden and it has grown to exactly the size it was meant. It hasn’t grown in height for years, although become a bit wider – a bit like me I guess :-)

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  19. It is just amazing to me that you have two trees in pots in your garden! They definitely look happy and healthy. Do you think you can control their size? I have a very similar clematis to your Niobe blooming in my garden, too. :o)

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    1. I asked the nursery where I bought the tallest magnolia, ‘Heaven Scent’ about growing Magnolia soulangeana in a container. Their advice was that ‘Heaven Scent’ could stay in the container I bought for it for 4-5 years, and in the next size up for another 2-3 years and then it should get a space in the ground. This would not necessarily work with other magnolias that grows faster and become taller. I hope that by the time I have to plant ‘Heaven Scent’ in the ground it will be tall enough so I can walk under it – that way I can plant it in one of the flowerbeds without it being in the way in my absolutely tiny garden. In very much the same way as I have a 30 ft cedar tree in my postage stamp size garden I suppose, although the crown on that tree is now 13 ft up in the air!

      Growing in the container will slow down the growth somewhat but that’s not really the aim, I just need to keep it in the container while it is growing tall enough to be planted in its permanent space in the ground.
      As for the smaller one, Red Lucky, I will try to control its size by pruning. That might go horribly wrong as magnolias are not supposed to be pruned, but I am willing to take that chance with the small one :-)

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