On Saturday, April 2, 2011, a group of about 30 magnolia-philes gathered at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC, for the first in a series of Magnolia Study Days that Magnolia Society International (MSI) is putting on in collaboration with public gardens and arboreta around the world.
MSI President Andrew Bunting started the day with an indoor PowerPoint tour of a number of species – many of which we were likely to see later on the grounds of the Arboretum.
The discussion was enhanced by having some long-time MSI members chime in along the way. When we got to Magnolia x loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’, Roberta Hagen said if she were to recommend one magnolia to urban homeowners, this would be it.
After being teased with one of Andrew’s stunning photos, we all vowed to check in later in the season at the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden at the Smithsonian to see a very well-situated Magnolia sieboldii.
One of the highlights of the Study Day was Dick Figlar’s virtual participation from South Carolina. The attendees were encouraged to bring cuttings of various magnolias in bloom. Janet Draper, horticulturalist at Smithsonian Gardens, brought an unidentified cutting from the Enid A. Haupt Garden. After puzzling over it for a short while, we decided to call upon an expert. We dashed off a quick iPhone photo for Dick’s identification and within moments, we had our answer: Magnolia cavaleriei var. platypetala. They don’t even make iPhone apps that good!
Supervisory Horticulturist Christopher Carley and his team at the National Arboretum did a thorough job of assembling information about the Arboretum’s collection of magnolias. Carole Bordelon, Pat Lynch, and Chris Upton led us on a tour of the grounds – pointing out many of the species we had earlier discussed. Arboretum researchers William F. Kosar and Dr. Francis de Vos were responsible for bringing us “The Girls” – eight hybrids designed to reduce the possibility of late spring frost damage. Among others, Arboretum research has also led to the release of M. ‘Galaxy’, a hybrid suitable for street tree planting.
Upcoming study days will build upon this successful format. Keep an eye on the magnoliasociety.org web site for more information and mark your calendars for study days in 2012 at Scott Arboretum in Swarthmore, PA; Quarryhill in Glen Ellen, CA; Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories and Experimental Grounds in Charlotte, NC; The Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA; University of Florida-North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, FL; and Arboretum Wespelaar in Wespelaar, Belgium.