Eye On Life Magazine

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Saucer Pink Magnolia For West Coast Gardeners

Born and raised in California during the 1950s and 1960s (before everyone in the planet seemed to move there), there are some things you don’t forget.  One of the them is the sight of Saucer Pink Magnolia trees.  These trees are one of the most spectacularly beautiful of all magnolias (some say the loveliest species of all).  

Their scientific name is Magnolia Campbelli, and unlike myself, they were never native to California.  Instead, they are a giant native of the Himalayan foothills and were a big discovery back in the early 1800s and hugely popular beginning in the 1940s to plant on the West Coast from that time on.

Saucer Pink Magnolias are also known simply as Pink Magnolias.  They have goblet-shaped flowers which may be from eight to ten inches wide.  The outside of the petals show a deep clear pink, the inner cup a suffused combination of white and slightly lighter pink, with no traces of purple.  These flowers are very pleasantly fragrant and appear toward the tips of the leafless grayish branches when in bloom.

Plant explorers have described trees in the Himalayas that were one hundred and fifty feet tall, though their average height here in the Untied States is closer to sixty to eighty feet in height.

One of the reasons that they have made such an impression on gardeners for so long it that they are very similar to other Magnolia species.  

They are very slow in reaching blooming maturity, and in my humble opinion, if you expect to plant one, you should do so while you are young — because you are going to probably have to wait twenty years to enjoy the sight of them being mature enough.  Either than, or plant them with the idea that their blossoms belong to the future.

This habit has naturally been a detriment to their propagation, but luckily for us, grafted Pink Magnolias have been around for about sixty years and they now come into flower in less than ten years for those of us who are inclined to be less patient.

Although not a tropical plant, Magnolia Campbelli are one of the more tender species of magnolias.  

It usually flowers in February and it can only be planted where winters are mild and there is little possibility of February frosts nipping its precocious buds.  

They are grown here in the south, but never reach their true beauty in such a humid climate in my opinion.

Soil requires are exactly the same as for other magnolia varieties.  They all prefer a rich friable loamthat is well drained, but should never suffer drought.  The trees grow best where summers are cool and when young, in locations sheltered from strong winds and direct sunshine.

Among the best places to see them is around San Francisco, California.  The last I heard there was one on the SW corner of Divisadero/Lombard, near 3137A Divisadero.  There were Saucer Pink Magnolias planted in 1924 in the Golden Gate Park, however, I don’t know if they are still there.  They were reported to have over three hundred flowers each when in bloom.