Often you may see a tree with dramatic foliage and bloom that you would love to possess but then realise that you simply haven't the space to accomodate it. And this could well be the case if you were admiring one of the North American magnolias, which are much larger than their Asian magnolia cousins. These towering  Kings of the North American forests have some of the largest and most beautiful flowers of any tree anywhere, but not many urban gardens can accommodate their size. Unless, that is, you're lucky enough to stumble across an Ashe magnolia.

Ashe magnolia, or Magnolia ashei, is the rarest Magnolia in North America and is found naturally growing in only six counties in the state of Florida.

This spreading deciduous shrub, or small tree, has beautiful, emerald-colored leaves up to 2 feet long. These leaves are large, and tropical-looking, with pale undersides. They are very similar to Bigleaf magnolia, or Magnolia macrophylla, of which Ashe magnolia was once considered a subspecies. But unlike the tall Bigleaf magnolia, Ashe magnolia is usually found at only 15 feet and can easily be kept to 10 feet. It flowers in spring with huge blossoms up to 12 inches across - a foot wide flower. And they are wonderfully fragrant. Best of all, unlike some flowers, the fragrance is neither heavy nor cloying. The smell is sweet, sharp and clean, reminiscent of both ginger root and lemon.

This large deciduous shrub will add an exotic touch to the garden with its huge leaves and it is small enough to provide the wonderful magnolia flowers without taking the space of a standard magnolia.

Ashe magnolia grows best in moist, well-drained, and preferably acidic to neutral soil in sun or dappled light. They do not, however, tolerate wet feet. And the large leaves mean the shrub should be in sheltered locations for the foliage to look best. Ashe magnolias thrive in the warmer states of the US. It is not suited to Canada but is fully hardy in the UK, 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.


Ashe  magnolia

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