Stellar Stellata

Magnolia stellata's luminous flowers in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Magnolia stellata’s luminous flowers (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Magnolia stellata, a most cherished early bloomer, was one of the first small trees we planted on our property over twenty years ago.  Sited in close proximity to our house, we could easily view its beauty through all the seasons, as well as enjoy one of early spring’s most enchanting fragrances.

I stumbled onto magnolia stellata at a local nursery, where it was nonchalantly placed with some other smaller trees.  But something about this barren tree intrigued me . . .

Magnolia blossoms glisten against the blue sky in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Magnolia blossoms glisten against the blue sky (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Was it the grey bark that reminded me of an elephants skin?  Was it the form, sort of open and welcoming? Or was it the sheer idea of a magnolia; a smaller tree with the most dramatic flower display you could experience in a zone 5 April garden?  For some or all of those reasons, we brought that baby home and it quickly became a special part of our growing tree family.

Stellata's stunning, sweetly fragrant blooms in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Stellata’s stunning, sweetly fragrant blooms (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Native to Japan, the commonly known star magnolia is a stellar performer in the galaxy of magnolias.  Flowering on naked branches, the multi-petaled, whitish-pink 4″ blossoms blanket the tree in late March or early April, and with warmer temperatures, emit a wonderful fragrance that gently embraces you and invites you for a closer sniff (note: the blooms are susceptible to frost damage). Magnolia stellata is perfect for the smaller landscape, as it tops out between 15 to 20′ tall by 10 to 15′ wide, and is easily trimmed to keep its shape. Hardy to zones 4-8, it prefers full sun and moist soil, although one of mine is in a very dry spot and doing quite well (it is heavily mulched).  The only maintenance required is removal of sucker branches from the base and some lower branches annually.

Magnolia's glossy summer foliage in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Magnolia’s glossy summer foliage (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

After Miss Stellata’s last blooms have littered the ground, the leaves start to emerge.  They are a bit smaller than other magnolias; but lush, glossy emerald green foliage covers this tree, providing the perfect backdrop for other garden shrubs and plants that are starting to come up nearby.  The leaves hold until late fall, then drop unceremoniously, with no real color display.  But that’s not the end of the show for this star of magnolias.

Magnolia's silvery buds in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Magnolia’s limbs illuminated with silvery buds (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Once again, this celebrity stands proudly in the slumbering winter landscape, happy to share the attribute saved for her final encore.  For season’s end is the time when stellata’s limbs are illuminated with a profusion of shimmering grey buds.  A promise of blossoms that will open next spring.  A promise of the future.

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