Magnolias with Larry Lowman

Larry Lowman’s love of nature has earned him many fans who admire his passion for plants that are native to North America and in particular the diverse region of Arkansas called Bayou Meto where Larry’s home is located. Larry shares with us his collection of magnolias, a true symbol of the south.

Larry Lowman, Ridgecrest Nursery, Wynne, Arkansas: The magnolia family as a whole is extremely diverse. And there is just a multitude of uses, it’s a very adaptable plant and can perform any number of useful purposes in the landscape. More often than not the Asian magnolias with the really elegant flowers are used as centerpieces, just a solo specimen out there really shining by its self and they are often planted in the open by themselves in full sun.

We blend with them, the shrubby forms like the star magnolias. I like to use these as a mixture in a shrub border. The southern magnolia, the big green grandifloras, is usually used as solo specimens in the middle of a large space. So it just depends on what you want out of a plant.

The flowers are very elegant if they are situated against a back drop that’s dark. The magnolias that are evergreen such as ‘Sweet Bay’ and ‘Southern Magnolia’ do most of their root growth during the warm weather and it is best to try to plant them in April or May if possible. If you dig them or disturb them in the middle of winter or in the fall they won’t be able to re-grow their roots quickly enough to recover from winter.

A lot of organic matter near the surface of the ground is important. We mulch with a leaf humus whenever possible and shredded hardwood bark that has been partially composted-not hardwood mulch, just hardwood bark. These trees typically grow in a forest habitat and are used to having leaf mulch completely covering their root system. Their roots typically seek the surface and oxygen and air and are very shallow and so they need a lot of surface mulch to protect them to be at their best. Whatever dead leaves that fall from the tree itself should stay in place in my opinion and then add a little bit more or some mulch to anchor them, to keep them from blowing away. On a tree that had a spread of 10 feet then I would have a mulch ring that was 10 or 12 feet around it.

The question of why I like magnolias is like asking someone why they like redheads. I, for some reason, am just attracted to them. The flowers, the plant organism itself, even the roots smell good when you are transplanting them and messing with them. But there is just something about the flowers in the spring. I’m also very attracted to daffodils from my childhood on, and so things that bloom early in the spring are the main reason that I like them.