Thankfully, the Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla, below) is recovering from an ill timed freeze that hit just as emerging leaves were most tender. While scattered branches of the large tree were spared, most leaves were damaged, and since a freeze and damage this late in the spring is so rare I was at least slightly concerned. While lower, more shaded branches of the Bigleaf magnolia have not flowered, large blooms can be seen where the tree pokes into sunlight. Damaged leaves remain, but other leaves have emerged and there should be no long term harm.
Bigleaf is not the common, evergreen magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora, below), but a deciduous tree native to areas west of the Blue Ridge Mountains with leaves to twenty-four inches tip to tip, and proportionately large flowers. The Cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) is native to local forests, with slightly smaller but still large leaves, and neither is commonly found or appropriate for most residential gardens.
Without glossy leaves, the Bigleaf magnolia is no more than a big leafed novelty, but I am easily entertained, so of course I’m overjoyed to have one, no matter that it is a less than practical choice.
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When we grew magnolias in the mid 1990s, we discontinued the bigleaf magnolia because we did not sell enough. No one here knew about it.