Over the next few weeks I’m going to highlight here on the blog the plants I currently have in my garden in a series of “plant profiles”. Each plant profile reflects the horticulture industry expectations for the plant as well as how it is performing in my particular corner of the world.

Since it was the first to flower in my garden this spring, the first plant profile shines the spotlight on my magnolia.

I have loved magnolia trees since before I even knew their correct name. I remember seeing them in a garden en route to my grandparents house and thinking they were one of the most spectacular trees I had ever seen. All my relations seemed to call them tulip-trees, so that’s what I called them, too.

When I took the “Woody Plant Materials: Trees and Shrubs for the Landscape” class my first semester as a horticulture student at USU I learned that a tulip-tree is, in fact, quite a different tree all together. This tree I so loved was actually a saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana). The specimen we used for our identification labs (and quizzes) stands tucked in an alcove on the west side of Old Main. It has since become one of my favorite trees in all of Logan.

Sorry for the poor quality, but this is an old photo I had of that wonderful saucer magnolia on USU’s campus.

What I didn’t know then, as a beginning horticulture student, but what I know now, is that the saucer magnolia is only one of many, many species and hybrids. Though perhaps because this was the species of magnolia I first became familiar with, it is now the image I conjure in my mind when I hear the tree mentioned.

All that being said, the magnolia I have in my garden is not actually the Magnolia x soulangeana. Mine is a hybrid named Leonard Messel; Magnolia kobus var. loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ to be precise.

Though small in stature (currently), I was happy with the number of blossoms.

Similar to the saucer varieties, Leonard Messel has large(ish) pink-fuchsia-purple flowers. Each flower consists both male and female reproductive parts surrounded by 12 narrow(ish) petals* reminiscent of the star magnolias.

*they’re actually tepals, but we’re not going to get into the technicalities right now.

From what I can tell of my tree – in my area of the world – is that it flowers slightly later than the star magnolias, but slightly earlier than the saucers. Which means if you plant multiple varieties you could have magnolia blossoms all through April and maybe into May (depending on the year).

The blossoms open wider and fade to white as they age.

If you, too, would like to grow Leonard Messel magnolia in your garden, here are the basics of what you need to know:

Botanical name: Magnolia kobus var. loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’

Common name: Leonard Messel magnolia

Form: single or multi-stemmed, upright and rounded small tree

Size: 15-20′ tall by 20-25′ wide

Hardiness: zones 5-8, but be careful of late frosts

Flower color: pink-fuchsia-purple

Bloom period: April (fragrant blossoms)

Landscape placement: Part sun; fertile, moist, well drained soil