Plant of the week- Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ 

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As a young boy growing up in the grounds of Mottisfont Abbey Gardens, I would always look forward to the start of spring, picking daffodils and pussy willows for my mums Mother’s Day bouquet and also the start of the few magnolias that grow in the garden, there was only a few but they were splendid speicimens, all planted by Mrs Gilbert Russell in the 1930’s. My favourite of all the magnolias that grew at Mottisfont, the beautiful Leonard Messel was my favourite.

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The x loebneri hybrids were started in the botanical gardens in Bonn, Germany  1914 by the garden inspector, Max Loebneri. He crossed magnolia kobus with magnolia stellata. This breeding also took place in North America. This breeding has left us with some of the best magnolias for the small garden, making a small tree up to 9m in the right conditions. Lucky for most the form we are looking at today makes a slightly smaller compacted plant, indeed the one at Mottisfont made a height of about 4m in about 70yrs. This form was raised at the gardens of Nymans, Sussex by the head gardener James Comber in the 1950’s. It is a beautiful pink colour that flowers for about 3 weeks during the spring, the colour of the flower tends to be affected by the weather, with a cool winter days followed by warmish nights leads to a pale pink colour while warm days and colder nights lead to a deeper pink colour. Plants are so strange aren’t they!

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Magnolia wood is also greatly valued as a light but very strong wood.

Growing wise, unlike a lot of the magnolia sp, x loebneri will take a wide range of soil types from free draining sandy soils to the thin soil over chalk, indeed it can take all soil types apart from very damp waterlogged soils. To get the best from the new plant, for the first few years it’s worth feeding with something like Vitax Q4 fertiliser and well rotten leaf mould or compost would be ideal. Planting wise it’s well worth trying to get a small tree as this will establish much more quickly, planting hole should have a good amount of organic matter added, Vitax Q4 and also mycorrhizal to help to get the plant established. It needs very little pruning at all, just a little formative pruning to remove crossing branches and lower branches. As for pest and diseases, the normal one like honey fungus, phytophthora, slugs, rabbits and deer are the biggest problem here in the uk and again more effected in a early age.

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If you prefer a white Ballerina is also a great form

Well this is an easy one to buy, basically any good garden centre or nursery would be selling it. And it’s also very easy to see, it’s basically everywhere, from front gardens to magnificent gardens. Enjoy

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