Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Magnolia Stellata

In Latin, the word "stellata" means starry. (For more on Latin botanical names, look here.) Knowing this makes it easy to identify this small, shrubby member of the Magnolia family. Instead of the well known, cup-shaped flowers magnolias are famous for, this lovely little tree has flowers that look like stars.

In bloom right now in Seattle, these Star Magnolias are wonderful additions to small gardens and mixed borders. There are several varieties, all deciduous and slow growing. They can reach 10- 20 feet high, with a spread from 10- 20 feet. Be sure to check plant labels for specific sizes before you buy one.

These trees add interest to the winter garden with a profusion of fat, fuzzy flower buds that resemble pussy willows. The buds open in early spring with flowers that light up the landscape and, depending on the variety, scent the garden with a light fragrance. Most trees have white flowers, but there are pink forms as well.

As with all flowering plants, it is best to buy them in bloom to be sure you get the color and fragrance you want. If you can, plant this magnolia where you can see it from your window because it is truly one of the stars of the spring garden.