Green Shadow Sweetbay MagnoliaMagnolia virginiana ‘Green Shadow’
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Magnolia virginiana ‘Green Shadow’
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
The Green Shadow Sweetbay Magnolia is a selected variety of this native tree, featuring a 4-month bloom period and leaves that stay evergreen in cooler zones. The beautiful scented blossoms are large and creamy-white, giving out a powerful vanilla perfume. The glossy leaves help make this tree a beautiful upright specimen, reaching 25 feet, with a spread of 15 feet and a short trunk. It is perfect on a lawn, near larger trees, at the back of beds, by your home, or by water, where it thrives in the wet soil.
The Green Shadow Sweetbay Magnolia grows in full sun, but it has good tolerance of partial shade too. It is evergreen from zone 7, partially evergreen in zone 6, and mostly deciduous in zone 5. It grows well in normal garden soils, and it has high tolerance for wet ground and areas that flood regularly. It rarely suffers from pests or diseases and there is no need to prune it.
Evergreen magnolias are treasured plants in the South. Their large white blooms, set against glossy leaves and releasing a delicious fragrance, fill the summer, and older trees stand like sentinels on plantation lawns. Sadly, these trees are only hardy to zone 7, and so many gardeners are denied the pleasure of growing them. There is, however, a more winter-hardy relative of those trees – the Sweetbay Magnolia. Growing naturally as far north as Long Island, it is much hardier, and although its flowers may be a little smaller, they still perfume the air for hundreds of feet around. The leaves are rich and glossy too, and this tree makes a beautiful specimen tree. The Green Shadow Sweetbay Magnolia is a selected form with a 4-month bloom period, and improved cold-resistance, making it very suitable for growing as far north as zone 5. Now you too can enjoy the pleasure of summer magnolias, even if you live in the North.
The Green Shadow Sweetbay Magnolia is an upright tree, with a low trunk, forming a broad crown 25 feet tall and 15 feet wide, in time. It has a solid, substantial appearance and makes a bold and beautiful specimen tree, so always give it enough room for its full development. It may have one or several major trunks, with a smooth, gray bark that is always attractive. If you cut a slice of bark from a mature tree you will notice a spicy scent, like the bay laurel berry, which is where the name ‘sweetbay’ comes from.
The leaves are large ovals, with smooth margins and a pointed tip. They are up to 5 inches long and 2 inches wide, with a glossy surface and a mid-green coloring. This tree is substantially more evergreen and cold-hardy than many other forms of this type of magnolia, and it only loses a significant quantity of leaves in the coldest zones.
The flowers first appear in May, each one lasting a week, but new blooms continue to open until the end of August, a full four months of blooms. They are creamy white, opening to be 6 inches across, and the petals are thick and smooth, with rich substance. The blossoms are highly visible, forming at the ends of the branches, and they give off a rich scent of vanilla, which spreads out across the garden, perfuming your yard and even drifting through windows – a true delight of summer you will come to eagerly anticipate each year. These blooms also attract butterflies and other pollinating insects. After the blossoms a curious seed pod develops, resembling a pine cone, and in winter these open, revealing a surprise – a cluster of large, bright red seeds.
This tree is a beautiful specimen to plant on a lawn, in a spot where its perfume can be appreciated. Plant it near your home, or a terrace, but allow enough room for its mature size. It can be planted at the back of large beds, and at the edges of woodlands in semi-natural settings too. It can also be planted in a row to make a grand and elegant screen. Because it grows well in wet ground it is ideal for low-lying spots, or by ponds, lakes and streams.
This tree is hardier than the evergreen magnolia, and it grows well all the way from zone 5 to the tip of Florida in zone 10. In zones 7 to 10 this tree is evergreen, keeping its leaves through winter, and only shedding them after new spring growth has matured. In zones 5, and sometimes in zone 6, it may lose some leaves, or even all of them, in harsh weather. The branches are hardy, and your tree will soon green up again in spring, so don’t start removing bare branches, thinking they are dead.
Full sun or partial shade, such as tree shadow, are perfect conditions for the Green Shadow Sweetbay Magnolia. It grows well in all damper soils, including areas that regularly flood, but it will also grow well in ordinary garden conditions, and well-established trees have some drought tolerance.
Very little maintenance is needed for this tree. Some formative pruning in its early years will help develop a good crown, but it will grow well perfectly naturally, and it is very low maintenance. Pests or diseases are normally never problems.
The Sweetbay Magnolia, Magnolia virginiana, was the first American magnolia to be introduced into Europe, in 1678. It flowered first in the garden of the Bishop of London, Henry Compton. It caused a sensation, and it was only when the southern magnolia, Magnolia grandiflora, arrived that it began to be more ignored. It is one of those quirks of gardening that this tree has not been more widely grown, because it really is a beautiful plant, and perfect for colder areas where the southern magnolia will not grow.
Joseph C. McDaniel was a professor of Horticulture at the University of Illinois, in Urbana. He was an important breeder and introducer of ornamental and edible plants, ranging from apples and pecans to hollies and magnolias. He was widely honored for his contributions to gardening, and magnolias were his specialty, and of great importance to him. Don Shadow owns a wholesale nursery called Shadow Nurseries, in Tennessee. He is a renowned plantsman, introducing new plants from around the world, and an encyclopedic authority on plants. Some years back J.C. McDaniel gave Don a large batch of seeds of the sweetbay magnolia. Don grew them, and after testing found one that stayed green in cold conditions when others dropped their leaves. He named it ‘Green Shadow’, and it went on to be one of the most outstanding varieties of the sweetbay magnolia.
We know you will love this tree – the perfect answer for lovers of summer magnolias who live in cooler zones, and for magnolia lovers everywhere. We have only a limited supply of this rare plant, so order now, as they will be gone very soon.