We have had a very warm Jan. and that has pushed the growth on many plants earlier than usual. As long as there is no hard frost, we will be seeing a very long growing/blooming season this year, even though it has become colder again. Some of the finest things you can plant are trees. They give lasting beauty and increase property value. Wise selection is important and some thought given to selection can give very pleasing results. Arbor Day is fast approaching in Mar. and any planting of a tree is a gift to posterity and the environment.
Some early bloomers you can see all around various neighborhoods are the flowering plums, and magnolias. Most of the flowering plums are tough easy care trees, mainly the purple leaf varieties are the commonest planted. They form small to medium sized trees and offer purple foilage for summer when these early flowers finish. There are both single and double varieties. P. blireiana is double with arching reddish purple growth. Sweetly scented. There are about a half dozen flowering plums Prunus cerasifera cvs. that are more commonly planted everywhere. These are tough easy care, some new selctions vary in color intensity of the purple leaves. Crimson Point offers almost columnar growth and is suitable for very narrow plantings where crown width is of concern. It is important to select non fruiting cvs. if you plant these with pavement under them. The fallen fruits are messy and can stain. Otherwise very much carefree. Their commonly used plantings make them somewhat monotonous for me, but I prefer things with more interest personally.
The flowering deciduous magnolia species and cvs. are now beginning to make their spectacular debut. The most common types have either star shaped or tulip/goblet shaped flowers. These shrubs or trees give the garden a touch of class. Magnolias are most commonly planted to posterity, as they have longevity. They are showy when mature and in full bloom. They are dependable performers for the landscape! You do not see many of the newer, better cvs. because people do not buy them when out of bloom generally. But there has been much great hybridizing effort yielding some wonderful results. You now can have better colors, more profuse flowering on young trees, smaller mature sizes, the only drawback is that they are difficult to locate in their variety. New cvs. are in short supply, many are rare. But all are very easy to grow! They get better each year with their bloom displays!
The recent hybridizing effort has also yielded yellow cvs.
Most of what you see blooming now are M. stellata, M. loebneri, and M. soulangeana cvs. These are the efforts of long time hybridizers and collectors past. New selections are here as well, but less commonly seen as those standard types at most nurseries. However, there are much better, more spectacular ones to be had! there are broad tepalled cvs on M. stellata and better colors: Centennial is very wide flowered, Kikuzaki and Jane Platt are deep pink and many tepalled. (magnolia petals are called tepals) M. soulangeana Alexandria is the common older form around all over. Picture is more spectacular with deep purple outside and white within tepals. Brozzonii is a large white. The Gresham hybrids are improvements over M. soulangeana. And there are other hybridists that also are spectacular. Apollo/ violet purple starlike, Athene white touched pink at base and classic form of exquisite quality, Atlas is huge, Milky Way is profuse and white, Manchu Fan is smaller flowered but a favorite of many with classic shaped flowers, Iolanthe is a huge pink, touched lavender purple, Elizabeth is the first yellow flowered hybrid made available, and for us it is creamy ivory white, tinging on yellow, in colder climates it is yellow, there are several other yellow flowered cvs.
So much is available in magnolias now, but not often requested so there is not much supply! Todd Gresham is a wonderful purplish, Tina Durio is a huge white, David Clulow is an exceptional flower, very profuse as well.
Good fertile soil, regular watering and a protected sunny location will grow almost any magnolia to perfection. Keep in mind the water table, they like good drainage, and a partially acid soil, mulching will help as well as acid fertilizer.(go easy with any fert.)