Time for magnificent magnolias

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The delicacy of magnolia stellata flowers.

MAGNOLIAS perform well in Canberra and now’s the time to select these magnificent shrubs and trees in flower in garden centres.

Cedric Bryant.

There are more than 220 species, with evergreen magnolias, such as “Little Gem”, growing naturally in the southern US down to Brazil and deciduous magnolias from the Himalayas to Japan. 

One great breeder is Felix Jury and his son Mark Jury, of NZ. They raise hundreds of seedlings of which only the top quality ones are selected for future breeding. 

One of their most famous selections is Magnolia “Black Tulip” with deep purple-black blooms up to 15 centimetres across. Other Jury selections include “Burgundy Star” and “Honey Tulip” with golden, honey-coloured, tulip-shaped blooms. 

They are available at most garden centres and ideally suited to our climate.

MANY magnolias are now a threatened species. The International Union for Conservation and Nature lists 121 as either endangered and some critically endangered. 

Included in the list is magnolia stellata or star magnolia, which I have growing by our front door, interestingly with an amazing abundance of flowers, more than for several years despite the harsh growing season. 

This magnolia was first introduced to the west in 1862. Hillier’s “Tree and Shrub” manual tells us it is a rare species growing in the wild in a small area in the western district of Tokai in Japan. 

Growing to just three metres, generally the only pruning needed is to remove any dead or crossing branches. 

AT this time of the year, I usually receive emails asking how to get rid of blackbirds. The complaint is they scratch mulch on to paths and lawns when looking for worms. But let me be clear; you are talking to the wrong person! 

I just love blackbirds. They have now arrived in our garden after spending winter in warmer climes. No other bird that I know of can sing all day long and never repeat a tune. 

Another bird story; a certain teacher was telling her pupils to look out for magpies. She told them the birds are swooping earlier this year, due to climate change! 

WHILE news broadcasts continually feature the drought, here’s an interesting statistic from “Country Life” magazine: “One inch of rain falling on one acre equals 27,154 gallons or equivalent to 113 tons”. Imagine the weight of water when several inches fall in a short time; no wonder bridges and roads get washed away. 

The Grand Orchid Show… Ainslie Football Club, September 21-22.

THE Orchid Society of Canberra’s Grand Orchid Show will be held at the Ainslie Football Club, 52 Wakefield Avenue, over the weekend of September 21-22. It will feature exotic and native orchids plus orchid-related art. A large range of orchids in flower will be for sale plus all the materials for growing these exotic plants. Refreshments will be available. Admission is $2.


  • When buying magnolias or any other shrub, be sure to check the ultimate size; some magnolia varieties can grow up to more than eight metres, not for the small garden!
  • Encourage children into gardening by sowing sunflower seeds or marigold seedlings now.
  • There is an increasing variety of daphne available and now’s an ideal time to plant.


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Cedric Bryant
Trained horticulturist and garden designer with over 30 years experience in the industry.

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