Magnolia laevifolia 'Strybing Compact'. Photo by Joanne Taylor.
Ernest Wilson, an intrepid botanical explorer of China in the early years of the twentieth century, called China the "Mother of Gardens." One of the areas he knew well was the southwestern Province of Yunnan, meaning "South to the Clouds." Half of all the plants in China grow here. Part of the Tibetan Plateau at 10,000 feet occupies the northwest, and to the south the Himalayas' deep mountain valleys and large rivers run parallel from north to south. The great variety of elevations and the moisture and shelter of the mountains all contribute to this amazing botanical wonderland. Magnolia laevifolia along with 26 other kinds of Magnolias hail from this region.
Magnolia laevifolia is a small tree with buds that form in the leaf axils and along the stem, an unusual feature of this family. Other charms are its golden-brown bud scales in fall and winter, which in spring give way to ivory, chalice-like flowers with "butter-yellow stamens, like lashes opening to the sun." This month we feature a cultivar of M. laevifolia: 'Strybing Compact'. It has a compact shrubby habit compared to the species. While in bloom, it is so blanketed with white flowers that the leaves are barely visible from a distance.
Upon recognition of its unique growth form and flowering, this plant, presumably grown from wild-collected seed, was deemed worthy of cultivar status. It grew from seed acquired from Shanghai Botanic Garden and has produced seedlings that appear – even at a young age – to possess very similar qualities to the parent. These seedling plants have been offered at our plant sales, and cuttings have been successfully taken as well. The cultivar name was officially registered in April, 2013 by Curator Don Mahoney and Associate Curator David Kruse-Pickler.
After 15 years, our 'Strybing Compact' has reached five by four feet and increases in size only slightly each year. It blooms in late March through April.
||Magnolia laevifolia 'Strybing Compact'
||Sun or partial shade; prefers deep, rich, well-drained soil and a location sheltered from wind.
||Late March through April. Blossoms profusely cover the shrub.
||Compact shrub, as accent in garden.
||This cultivar differs from the species in staying more compact and densely covered with flowers when in bloom.
Cultivar named in 2013 by Don Mahoney and David Kruse-Pickler.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Text by Kathy McNeil. Photos by Joanne Taylor, Mona Bourell and David Kruse-Pickler.