The Saucer Magnolia is probably the best known and most widely planted variety in the Ottawa area, so named for its giant saucer-shaped flowers. Varying in colour from white to buttery yellow and from soft pink to magenta, magnolia flowers persist for a few weeks, after which time the fallen petals can be enjoyed a few more days as they cover the ground. The beauty of the magnolia flower canopy is only rivaled by its intoxicatingly beautiful perfume as it wafts through the air on a gorgeous spring day/evening.
One of the reasons magnolias make such a terrific floral display each May is the emergence of flowers that completely cover the branches before the leaves emerge, looking like delicious cotton candy.
Many people think of magnolia trees as ‘southern belles’ and are sometimes surprised to learn that magnolias grow and flower quite well in our northern climate.
Magnolias have actually been grown successfully in Ottawa for decades. The Central Experimental Farm has dozens of significant varieties in its collection, some of which were planted in the 1960s.
Since magnolias tend to be a little pricey, you’ll want to protect your investment by planting it in a sunny location with moist, well-drained soil. Fortunately for Ottawa gardeners, magnolias will also tolerate clay soils. Once established, they require very little care other than an occasional light pruning and are rarely bothered by insects or diseases. Most of the magnolia varieties sold at Ottawa garden centres will reach a height of 12-20 feet tall at maturity, making them right-sized for the average urban garden.
To see a map of the magnolia locations at the Experimental Farm, do an online search for “Ottawa Experimental Farm Magnolia Collection”. Closer to home, be on the lookout for these magnificent beauties throughout the Alta Vista area. Peak flowering usually occurs around mid-May.
Patricia is a long-time resident of the Alta Vista area of Ottawa with 30+ years of gardening experience. If you’d like to share your thoughts about this article or reach out for design and planting advice for your garden, please contact Patricia by email: OttawaPlantByNumbers@gmail.com or on Instagram: @ottawaplantbynumbers