Many gardeners dream of having a Magnolia tree in their gardens. To see those pastel blooms start to emerge at the end of winter is a sight that even non-gardeners enjoy! But alas, not all of us have the room for a towering Magnolia in the garden.
We’re used to seeing the majestic Magnolia x soulangeana dominating parks, avenues, and even gardens that most would consider ‘large’. This is a very charismatic tree – it takes all the attention from any other flora in its vicinity! However, although this species is common, it isn’t the only Magnolia on the block. Did you know that there are around 210 species in this genus? They range from the grand presence of the Magnolia x soulangeana to the petite Magnolia liliiflora. But, did you know there are even Magnolias that can be used as hedging…
A Magnolia as hedging?
Yes, you read that right. If you don’t have the space for a large Magnolia tree in your garden, then you can always opt for the Fairy Magnolias® (technically a Michelia!)- they are a much more space-effective method of achieving the Magnolia look without having to move house!
With an upright, bushy growth habit, the Fairy Magnolias® will mature into a tall, dense tree up to 9-12ft high and 5-7ft wide. It’s this characteristic which makes it perfect to use as hedging. So whether you want to mark the boundaries of your garden with a hedge, or line a new section of your garden such as a place to eat or host a BBQ, then these Magnolias could be for you.
The versatility of the Fairy Magnolias®
Hailing from New Zealand, the Fairy Magnolias® are new varieties, which have already made a splash in the gardening world.
They are quickly becoming a favourite of gardeners and landscapers thanks to a compact size, dense foliage and long lasting blooms, which appear throughout the entirety of spring. They are available with white, cream and blush flowers.
So, how can this type of Magnolia be utilised in your garden? This is such a versatile small tree/shrub that it can suit a huge range of gardens, small or large, in a variety of ways. Here are just a few:
Of course, we’re here to talk about Magnolias as hedging. This is a truly unique aspect of this type of Magnolia. But this isn’t just any old hedge – this is a real showstopper. A hedge that should be shown off!
Because of its density, the Fairy Magnolias® can be used to mark or even hide a boundary. The evergreen foliage stays put all year, but in spring its 2.5”-wide, fragrant blooms emerge to bring the hedge to life.
If using this Magnolia as a hedge, you should plant each tree three feet apart due to the density of the plant.
Centrepiece in small spaces
Do you have a small garden that needs a centrepiece? This Magnolia is a compact dream. Use it in your border as a specimen tree with a significant floral show in spring. It’ll also work fantastically in containers.
Fairy Magnolias® will establish easily and grow quickly, bringing a voluptuous vibe to your small space with little effort. Plus, its neat and upright habit will ensure the minimum of maintenance as time goes on.
So, does a Magnolia in a patio pot really work? Yes! The Fairy Magnolias® are very well suited to a patio pot for those with small gardens or even just those who like to make a real feature of their patios. And, you know I love the ‘jigsaw garden’ styling of patio containers!
My advice when it comes to planting your Fairy Magnolias® in a container is to form a spectacular canopy over a mixed understory of grasses, perennials and season annuals and bulbs. It’ll bring serious wow-factor to your outdoor space. Or, you can even clip it into a topiary shape!
How to care for Fairy Magnolias®
Grow your plants in full sun or part shade to get the best results. It’s a fairly easy going tree, so it’ll suit any soil which is well-draining; it especially loves a well-worked, draining soil. Water moderately over summer. Once established, you’ll be delighted that Fairy Magnolias® aren’t troubled by many pests or diseases, either!
You can apply a general fertiliser after the tree flowers in spring, but if you’ve grown your tree in a container, use a slow release fertiliser in spring and autumn.
Find out more about the Fairy Magnolias® here.
Five Unusual Hedging Choices
Or how about growing a furniture hedge??
Let us know what you decide to use as your hedging! Leave a comment below.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.
Hortus blogii ‘Mike Palmer’
Great article Michael. I wasn’t aware of Fairy Magnolias!
Hi Michael we are worried about roots with our drains- as our tree would about 4ft away. would a Magnolia Fairy Blush grow well in a pot in the ground?
There’s also a ‘Fairy Lime’ variety now. “It’ll suit any soil” – I’m not sure about that. Generally, a slightly acidic soil is recommended. We have 2 of each variety and some seem to suffer from chlorosis, at least after winter. Gardeners in Germany complain about a lack of hardiness; in our garden (in Zurich, Switzerland) they survived -9 degrees at night, protected from strong winds. It takes a few more years to test them before we can pass a final judgement. I’m sure it’s much easier to cultivate them in England than on the continent.
Thank you Michael for this informative article on magnolias! I’ve always been hesitant to plant one in my small garden, but your tips on pruning and hedging have given me the confidence to give it a try. I never realized how versatile magnolias could be in terms of their size and shape. I’m excited to experiment with different varieties and create a beautiful hedge that will add both privacy and beauty to my outdoor space. Thanks again for the great advice!