"This genus," named for Magnol,. a distinguished botanist in France, contains trees, except M. glauca, which, in the North-ern States, is only a shrub; all of them beautiful, and some of them the finest and most splendid trees that are known.
"Magnolia glauca. - The most northern boundary of the habitation of this beautiful plant is supposed to be in a sheltered swamp, near Cape Ann, and not far from the sea.
"Few ornamental plants are better worth the attention of the gardener. Carefully trained, it forms a beautiful little tree. No plant is, at any season and in every condition, more beautiful. The flower, pure white, two or three inches broad, is as beautiful and almost as fragrant as the White Lily. The fruit is a cone, about two inches long, covered with scale-like, imbricated ovaries, from which, when mature, escape the scarlet obovate seeds, which, instead of falling at once to the ground, remain some time suspended by a slender thread. The bark of the young shoots is smooth and of a rich apple-green, afterwards becoming of a soft glaucous or whitish color. Before opening, the leaves are enclosed by the stipules, which, falling, leave rings encircling the branch; when young the leaves are covered with a pubescence, which, beneath, has a silken lustre." - [Emerson.)
Although naturally growing in wet ground, it will flourish in almost any good garden soil, if not exceedingly dry, particularly if partially shaded from the sun. It may be propagated by layers, - which require two years to root sufficiently, - or by seed, if great care is observed.
Magnolia acuminata. - Acuminate-leaved Magnolia. - This species attains the size of a large tree in a more southern climate. In the neighborhood of Boston there are handsome specimens of this magnificent tree, but not of a large size. The flowers are very conspicuous, being five or six inches across, of a bluish-white color, produced from May to July. The foliage is very large. It produces cylindrical fruit, three or four inches long, with the scarlet seeds depending from it.
Magnolia auriculata. - .Ear-leaved Magnolia. - This is a splendid tree, and does not grow to so large a size as the last, but more beautiful, for shape, foliage and flowers.
There are a number of species of this magnificent tribe, that succeed very well as far north as Massachusetts, in sheltered localities; but they are not to be depended upon where exposed to cold winds.
The Chinese Magnolias, according to Mr. Downing, are all hardy, except one, (M. fuscata,) in the latitude of Newburg, N. Y. Some of them we have seen flourishing in this vicinity, and probably all will succeed here.
He says : "They are certainly among the most striking and ornamental objects in our pleasure-grounds and shrubberies in the spring. Indeed, during the months of April and the early part of May, two of them, the White, or Conspicua, and Sou-lange's Purple, or Soidavgiana, eclipse every other floral object, whether tree or shrub, that the garden contains. Their numer ous branches, thickly studded with large flowers, most classically shaped, with thick, kid-like petals, and rich, spicy odor, wear an aspect of novelty and beauty among the smaller blossoms of the more common trees and shrubs that blossom at that early time, and really fill the beholder with delight. The Chinese White Magnolia (M. conspicua) is, in effect of its blos-soms, the most charming of all Magnolias. The flowers, in color a pure, creamy white, are produced in such abundance, that the tree, when pretty large, may be seen at a great distance.
"The Chinese name, Gulan, literally, Lily-tree, is an apt and expressive one, as the blossoms are not much unlike those of the White Lily in size and shape, when fully expanded. Among the Chinese poets, they are considered the emblem of candor and beauty."
Mr. Downing speaks of a tree, about twenty feet high, planted on the lawn in front of his house about fourteen years ago, on which there were, the season previous, three thousand blossoms open upon it at once. "The branches spread over a space of fifteen feet in diameter, and the stem, near the ground, eight inches in diameter. Its growth highly symmetrical. For the last ten years it has never, in a single season, failed to produce a fine display of blossoms." He states, that its usual period of blossoming is from the fifth to the twenty-fifth of April. It is grafted on the Cucumber Tree, (M. acuminata,) which he supposes renders the tree more hardy and vigorous than it would be on its own stock or root.
"The next most ornamental Chinese Magnolia," he says, "is Soulange's Purple, (Magnolia Soulangiana.) This is a hybrid seedling, raised by the late Chevalier Soulange Bodin, the distinguished French horticulturist. The habit of the tree is closely similar to that of the conspicua; its blossoms, equally numerous, are rather larger, but the outside of the petals is finely tinged with purple. It partakes of the character of both its parents, having the growth of Magnolia conspicua, and the color of M. purpurea, (or, indeed, a lighter shade of purple.) Its term of blooming is, also, mid-way between that of these two species, being about a week later than that of the white, or Gulan Magnolia. It is also perfectly hardy in this latitude." The Magnolia purpurea is sometimes seen in large gardens about Boston, but is a little tender. " It is a shrub of six to eight feet high. The blossoms are white within, of a fine dark-lilac or purple on the outside, and quite fragrant, like the others." The flowers begin to open early in May, and continue blooming a number of weeks, or, if in the shade, through most of the summer. M. gracilis differs from the purple-flowering only in its more slender growth, and narrower leaves and petals.
The same gentleman remarks, that, " If these noble flowering trees have a defect, it is one which is inseparable from the early period at which they bloom, viz., that of having few or no leaves when the blossoms are in their full perfection ;" and suggests, that the planting of the American Arbor Vitae and
Hemlock, would remedy this defect, by forming a dark-green background, on which the beautiful masses of Magnolia flowers would appear to great advantage.