2016

 
 

Of all of the Silverbells, arguably the prettiest is the Magniflora silverbell, or Large-flowered silverbell, or Halesia diptera var. magniflora. This is a superb selection of the Two-winged silverbell, a tree which occurs naturally in moist woodlands and upland sites in eastern North America . In the forest the species can reach heights of 30 to 50 feet but the Magniflora silverbell is smaller, 20 to 30 feet, which is a better size  for today's smaller gardens.

Magniflora or Large-flowered silverbell has a willowy elegance about it. In early spring the  branches are draped with bell-shaped flowers that flutter prettily in the slightest breeze. These immaculate white blooms are larger than the other Halesias, as much as two times larger, and are produced before the leaves. Place a bench beneath a silverbell since these flowers are even more beautiful when seen from below.

The leaves are simple, disc-shaped 1½ to 3 inches wide and dark green The leaf edges are minutely toothed and the tips taper to a point. In autumn they turn a pretty clear yellow. In winter this slender, diminutive tree disappears into the surrounding vegetation until it announces to the world that spring has returned.

The Large-flowered silverbell may be used as a specimen or understory plant. They produce their best effect though when grouped along borders or a woodland verge.

Silverbells have a medium growth rate reaching 9 to 12 feet over a 6 to 8 year period and remain willowy and light, never overpowering their site. Out of bloom or autumn color, they are all but invisible. They grow best in moist, fertile, well-drained, slightly acidic soils, in full sun or partial shade. There is no serious pest or disease problem and they require very little care.

Although Large-flowered silverbell has been known for years in the UK and US, it is only now becoming more available due to improved propagation techniques. It will grow successfully across most of the US and the warmest bits of Canada - extreme southern Ontario . It is fully hardy throughout the UK and will do well in both Australia and New Zealand. As usual, this special tree will not be found in the popular landscape nurseries but more likely in a specialty, mail-order, plant nursery.

Magniflora silverbell

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