April is the month when the fuzzy buds of magnolias open to beautiful blooms. Then we cross our fingers that no late season frost turns those delicate pinks and whites to brown. This is the chance we take with magnolias here in planting Zone 6. But the large creamy yellow flowers of Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ are worth the risk.
Haverford College Arboretum includes many magnolias, from the large evergreen southern magnolia, to the diminutive star magnolia and the even smaller native sweet bay magnolia. Among the collection are a mature Elizabeth magnolia alongside the old Ryan Gym at Hall Plaza, and a newcomer planted Arbor Day 2012 in front of Chase Hall.
The tree is quite hardy and grows 30 to 50 feet high and 20 to 30 feet wide. The blooms, which appear when the tree is still quite young, are large, cup-shaped and frangrant. The tree’s parents are the Yulan magnolia, Magnolia denudata, and our native cucumber magnolia Magnolia acuminata. The latter tree grows quite tall and has similarly colored flowers but they are smaller and hard to see high in the canopy. It’s best grown in full sun with consistent moisture.
Magnolia ‘Elizabeth’ was developed at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where it was patented in 1977. The flowers are sterile and fruits rarely appear.