Moving magnolias

by Pippa Greenwood

There is an 'ideal' way of doing most things, but we can't always garden 'by the book'. Sometimes it is nice to experiment, to try other methods.

Pink flowers on a magnolia treeAfter a hectic day recently, I lay on the grass for several minutes, gazing up at my lovely Magnolia stellata. The tree was a 30th birthday present from my sister, which she bought as a good-sized plant. I planted it, but we moved house a few years later and I couldn’t bear to be parted from my gift. So, I dug it up, to transplant to our new home.

There is a general consensus that magnolias resent disturbance, and respond badly to being moved. But, feeling I had no choice, I excavated the tree, wrapped up the roots and transported it to its new location. It survived, despite the fact that I was so busy with the move that I didn’t manage to replant it immediately, as I should have done.

For the first couple of years it did sulk rather, then started to look a little perkier  - but it didn’t put on any new growth. Eventually, with a little TLC, and extra watering, my cherished magnolia did eventually grow up and outwards. Eventually, every spring it bore (and still bears) masses of beautiful flowers, each with a distinct, sweet perfume.

I think this episode demonstrates that gardening rules are there to be bent. There is an 'ideal' way of doing most things, but we can’t always garden ‘by the book’. Sometimes it is nice to experiment, to try other methods. Don’t feel guilty if you occasionally break the rules. You might make a few mistakes along the way, but often you can get away with it!

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Gardeners' World Web User 24/03/2011 at 09:02

We have a very old Magnolia which we love dearly. Should one prune it? Some of its branches are getting heavy which is somewhat worrying. We do prop it up with appropriate sticks, but just wondering if one is meant to prune them?

Gardeners' World Web User 24/03/2011 at 13:45

Sometimes I think that bending or breaking the rules is the best way to learn (although maybe not on something so precious for beginners!) Lovely post Pippa, thank you.

Gardeners' World Web User 24/03/2011 at 13:51

I nipped a couple from the lower half of the Magnolia earlier in the month, it seems to have responded well. It's flowering nicely and has a great scent. I did water in a little Superthrive afterwards. Yours sounds great! I hope mine progresses to the 'propping up with appropriate stick' stage.

Gardeners' World Web User 24/03/2011 at 16:26

Our Magolia Stellata is magnificent at the moment absolutely covered in beautiful flowers. I prune off any branches that over hang the path and slap you in the face as you walk by, it never seems to do any harm at all to the plant.

Gardeners' World Web User 24/03/2011 at 22:23

I have a magnolia I was given as a birthday present a few years ago, It's called 'Susan' and has red flowers. I didn't know anything about magnolias so stuck it in a large pot and watered and fed it with tomato food. It didn't do well and I discovered it liked acidic conditions so put it in the garden and used an ericaceous feed. It has never flowered since as the soil in the garden is not acidic. I was going to move it again into large pot filled with acidic soil to see if I can get it to flower. Any advice?

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