ONE of the great plant-breeding success stories of the past 10 years or so has been magnolia Little Gem.
Bred from the classic evergreen Bull Bay magnolia (magnolia grandiflora), Little Gem has proven to be a very reliable large shrub or small tree. It works well as a hedge, as a feature plant in a garden or lawn, or in large containers. It can grow to about 8-10m tall and 3-4m wide. It can tolerate dry spells as well as positions that may stay wet for a while after heavy rain.
It is a versatile and hardy plant, and is widely used in commercial landscaping as well as private gardens. It's not particularly fussy about soil type, temperature or humidity. Little Gem is a sound investment.
Magnolia Teddy Bear is another dwarf evergreen magnolia, growing only to about 4m and maintaining a very compact, conical shape. The glossy, deep green leaves have a rich, coppery underside which is quite velvety, even fuzzy - hence the name Teddy Bear. The leaves are more rounded and closer together than those on Little Gem. This gorgeous foliage contrasts beautifully with the huge, fragrant 15-20cm white flowers that appear in spring, summer and autumn. Great as a hedge, screen or feature plant, Teddy Bear prefers full sun to light shade. It makes a brilliant potted plant.
Thanks to its naturally compact growth habit, pruning is not really necessary. If you do want to tidy it up or keep it shorter, give it a light trim in late winter or early spring. Like Little Gem, Teddy Bear is remarkably hardy. Once established, it doesn't need much watering.
When planting trees and shrubs, take the time to prepare the soil to give them the best possible conditions. Those plants are going to be there for many years, so it's worth getting it right. Dig a hole about 1.5 times the size of the pot containing your plant. Add some well-composted organic matter, mixing it into the bottom of the hole and into the soil that you will use to backfill.
Ease the plant out of the pot and gently loosen the roots a little. Place the root ball into the hole so that the top is level with the surface of the surrounding soil. Fill the gap between the root ball and the edge of the hole with soil, and firm it down. Water well, apply some mulch and water again. Water deeply every week or so until the plant is established.
If you are planting into a pot, use the best potting mix you can get. Obviously, potted plants will need regular watering throughout their lifetime.
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