Plant Guide

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Magnolia 'Manchu Fan'

Upright, deciduous tree with masses of goblet-shaped flowers on bare branches in spring. Hybrid, originating from a cross between Magnolia x soulangeana 'Lennei Alba' and Magnolia veitchii, bred by Tod Gresham. Somewhat similar to Magnolia denudata, but smaller-growing with a later, longer flowering season. Flowers are white, flushed with dark pink at the base of the outer petals (tepals). Obovate, light to mid green leaves, to 20 cm long and 10 cm wide.

Prefers a sheltered position in full sun or partial shade and well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Cover the soil with mulch after planting to keep the root zone cool. No pruning required other than removing dead or damaged branches.

Magnificent specimen tree, suitable for the smaller garden.


Magnolia 'Strawberry Fields'

Deciduous, upright columnar tree with large vibrant wine-red flowers during late winter and early spring. Flowers open from large, furry grey flower-buds to loose goblets of 10-15 cm across and finally to star shapes up to 25 cm wide with the innermost petals remaining closed. Hybrid developed in New Zealand, possibly originating from a cross between Magnolia 'Spectrum' and Magnolia 'Vulcan'.

Prefers a sheltered, sunny or partially shaded position in well-draining, slightly acidic soil. Like many other shallow-rooted plants, deciduous magnolias like a cool root run and growth tends to be better once the surrounding plants or the trees themselves cast a shadow over the rooting zones. Mulch at the time of planting will also help with this. For soils with poor drainage, consider planting Magnolia 'Strawberry Fields' in a raised bed or on a slope.

Magnificent specimen tree for flower display over a long period from late winter.


Magnolia 'Sundance'

Deciduous, spring-flowering magnolia, starting as a shrub and eventually growing into a multi-stemmed tree (unless trained from an early age). Soft yellow, lightly fragrant flowers emerge before the new leaves from large flower buds covered with yellowish moss-like fur. Initially the flowers are tulip-shaped. Gradually the petals open to a saucer-shape up to 20 cm wide. The yellow colour comes from Magnolia acuminata, which has been crossed with Magnolia denudata to produce a number of hybrids, Magnolia 'Sundance' being one of them. Large mid green, oval leaves. 

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in well-draining neutral or acidic soil. Protect from strong winds. Likes a cool root-run, which eventually will be provided by the shadow of its own canopy. At planting time, cover the soil with mulch to keep the roots cool. Frost hardy to about -15oC, but in frost-prone areas avoid a position in morning sun to minimise the risk of frost damage to the flowers. No pruning required other than removal of dead branches and creating a good shape.

Elegant specimen tree with stunning flowers and unusually coloured flower buds.


Magnolia 'Thomas Messel'

Deciduous tree with beautiful white flowers during late winter and early spring. Hybrid of uncertain parentage, possibly originating from a cross between Magnolia campbelii and Magnolia sprengeri var. elongata. Flowers are about 15 cm across, white, flushed with pink at their base.

Plant in a sheltered, sunny or partially shaded position in well-draining, slightly acidic soil. Like many other shallow-rooting plants, deciduous magnolias like a cool root run, and better growth can be expected once the surrounding plants or the trees themselves cast shade on their roots. For poorly draining soils, consider planting Magnolia 'Thomas Messel' in a raised bed or on a slope. Covering the ground with mulch after planting also helps to keep the roots cool.

Beautiful specimen tree for flower display from late winter. 


Magnolia 'Vulcan'

Deciduous Magnolia with huge, burgundy red flowers from an early age during late winter or the beginning of spring. The colour is generally most intense early in the season and on mature trees. The lightly perfumed flowers are about 20-30 cm across. Erect, slender tree, broadening with age.

Bred by Felix Jury (New Zealand) from a cross between M. campbelii 'Lanarth' and Magnolia liliiflora 'Nigra'.

Prefers a sheltered, sunny position in well-draining neutral or slightly acidic soil. Likes a cool root run, which will eventually be provided by its own canopy. At planting time, cover the ground with mulch to keep the roots cool and to retain moisture during summer. Particularly suitable for climates with warm summers. The colour tends to be less intense in countries with cold summers (regardless of the winter temperatures). USDA zones 6-9.

Spectacular sight when in full bloom. Use as a specimen tree.


Magnolia denudata

Yulan magnolia, Jade orchid, Lily tree, Jade lily, Yulan

Deciduous tree up to 10 m tall, native to central and eastern China. Low-branching habit with spreading branches. Oval to oblong mid-green leaves with downy undersides, 15 x 8 cm. Flowers within three years. Mature specimens produce masses of scented, lily-shaped white flowers on bare wood in late winter and early spring before the new leaves appear. The outside of the flowers may be flushed with pink or rosy red at the base, but most specimens have pure white flowers. 

Synonym: Magnolia heptapeta

The Chinese have cultivated this magnolia for many centuries, going back as far as the Tang Dynasty (618 AD). It is depicted as a symbol of purity and candour in ancient paintings, embroideries, on scrolls and porcelains. Magnolia denudata was the first magnolia to be introduced from Asia to the Western world (England-1780).

Prefers a sheltered position in full sun or partial shade in any well-draining neutral or acidic soil. Intolerant of overly wet or dry conditions. Frost tolerant but flower buds may be damaged by late frosts.

Magnificent specimen tree, producing exquisite flowers from an early age. 


Magnolia stellata

star magnolia

Deciduous shrub or small tree with rounded canopy, and smothered with flowers during late winter and early spring. Native to Japan. Slightly fragrant, pure white, star-shaped, 8-12 cm wide flowers with at least 12 narrow petals emerge from large, grey, hairy flowerbuds before new leaves. Flowers are occasionally flushed with pink. There are a couple of pink-flowering cultivars in existence. Young leaves are bronze green when they first appear, turning mid to dark green on maturity, and changing to yellow just before they fall in autumn. Leaves are oval to oblong, about 10 cm long and 4 cm wide.

Prefers a sheltered position in full sun or part shade in moist, but well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Tolerates lime. Frost hardy, but flowers may be damaged by late frosts. No or minimal pruning during late summer is all that is required.

Lovely magnolia suitable for flower display in the smaller garden.


Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel'

Hardy, deciduous shrub or tree, growing to about 6-8 m, with fragrant flowers on bare branches. Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' originated from a cross between Magnolia kobus and Magnolia stellata 'Rosea' in Leonard Messel's garden at Nymans estate in Sussex. Oblong to elliptic, mid-green leaves, to about 12 cm long and 5 cm wide, turning yellow and brown in autumn. Rose-pink buds open in late winter or spring to scented flowers with up to 12 narrow petals, similar to those of the star magnolia (Magnolia stellata), pink mainly on the outside and white inside, 10 cm wide. Flower colour tends to be paler when spring temperatures are low, and darker pink in warm spring weather.

Prefers a position with a cool root run, in full sun, well-drained, slightly acidic soil, and sheltered from strong winds. Flowers are more frost-hardy than those of most other magnolias. Minimal pruning required. Just remove damaged, dead or crossing branches in mid summer. Avoid root disturbance.

An elegant specimen tree, flowering profusely for about 4-5 weeks. Looks great as a feature plant with night-lighting. Plant close to an area where you can enjoy the subtle fragrance.


Malus 'Jack Humm'

Small deciduous tree with a beautiful display of bright crimson red fruit, flushed with yellow-orange, during autumn and well into winter. New Zealand bred crab apple cultivar, developed from a cross between Malus 'Gorgeous' and Malus 'John Downie'. The plum-sized fruit are produced in clusters, usually untouched by birds until very late in the season, and are ideal for preserves and jellies. Green leaves with lighter undersides, turning yellow and orange in autumn. Pink flower buds open to reveal 3-4 cm wide, white flowers in spring. 

Prefers a sunny position in any fertile, well-draining soil, protected from strong winds. Frost hardy. Tolerates quite dry conditions once established. Avoid constantly wet or waterlogged soils.Prune when young to create an attractive framework, and thereafter prune occasionally to maintain a good shape, and remove dead or damaged branches.

Magnificent specimen tree, flowering and fruiting profusely. Great smaller growing alternative for cherry blossom trees. Suitable for large containers.


Melia azedarach

Persian lilac, Indian lilac, Cape lilac, bead tree, chinaberry tree, syringa berrytree, white cedar, Ceylon cedar, Texas umbrella, umbrella tree

Deciduous tree with a rounded canopy and glossy foliage, native to northern and eastern parts of Australia, and South East Asia. Belongs to the Mahogany family (Meliaceae). Leaves are 2-3 times odd-pinnately compound, to 50 cm long, and consist of 3-8 cm long leaflets with entire or lobed and/or toothed margins. Foliage is mid green, turning yellow in autumn. Small, pale purple to mauve and white, fragrant flowers in loose panicles during spring after the new leaves have emerged. Flowers are followed in autumn by 1.5 cm wide bead-like fruit, smooth and green initially, wrinkled and yellow when mature, remaining on the tree for a long time during winter. Has become invasive in some parts of the world. Poisonous fruits and foliage.

Synonyms (among many others): Melia australis, Melia japonica, Melia sempervirens.

Prefers a sunny position in well-draining soil. Copes well with partial shade. Adaptable to a wide range of conditions, but sensitive to waterlogged soils. Can handle considerable drought. Prune for shape to encourage a good branching structure. Suitable for coastal areas. Melia azedarach has a shallow root system and is best planted at some distance from hard surfaces. Tolerates moderate frosts (zones 8-12).

Attractive shade or specimen tree with graceful foliage, perfumed spring flowers, and a lovely display of yellow fruit in winter. When in flower, the canopy has a beautiful soft, smokey mauve appearance. Also suitable for erosion control and timber production.


Metrosideros excelsa

pohutukawa, New Zealand pohutukawa, New Zealand Christmas tree

Evergreen, usually multi-stemmed tree, often developing a spreading canopy, endemic to New Zealand. Occurs mainly in coastal regions of the northern part of the North Island. Leaves of mature trees are covered with a fine tomentum, lightly on the upper surface and densely on the lower surface, giving the foliage a grey-green appearance. Leaves are elliptic to oblong, to 10 cm long and 5 cm wide, arranged in pairs. Bright red flowers begin to appear in November, and continue to open during December and January (New Zealand summer). Individual trees may vary in flowering time, and in flower colour shade and intensity. Flowers attract nectar-feeding birds. Grey, deeply furrowed bark. Metrosideros excelsa trees often develop clusters of aerial roots from the trunk and the lower branches, some of which may reach the ground.

Prefers a position in full sun and well-draining soil. Does not like wet feet. Very wind-tolerant. Good for coastal areas with poor soils. Tolerates dry conditions. Copes well with moderate frosts once established, but is frost tender when young. No major pests and diseases. Root system can become invasive, so it is best not to plant Metrosideros excelsa close to buildings or near drainage systems. Use drought-tolerant plants for under-planting.

Magnificent tree, smothered with flowers around Christmas time in the Southern Hemisphere. Use as a specimen tree in large gardens. If you have insufficient space, select one of the smaller growing selections, such as 'Scarlet Pimpernel' or 'Vibrance'.


Michelia doltsopa 'Silver Cloud'

Small to medium, mostly evergreen tree with pyramidal canopy, long leathery leaves and masses of scented flowers in late winter and spring.  Dark green leaves, paler beneath, up to about 17 cm long. Leaves tend to hang. Floppy, multi-petalled creamy white magnolia-like flowers emerge from bronzy-brown, furry buds. In colder areas, Michelia doltsopa 'Silver Cloud' behaves like a semi-evergreen.

'Silver Cloud' was originally selected by Duncan and Davies in New Zealand. It has a smaller and neater growth habit than the parent species and flowers from a younger age (after 2-3 years). Michelia doltsopa itself originates from western China and eastern Himalayas.

Prefers a sheltered position in full sun and slightly acidic, well-draining soil. Keep roots cool and moist in summer. Requires little maintenance other than gradually removing the lower branches to lift the crown, and maybe some shaping of the canopy. Flowers may get damaged by frost.


Nerium oleander


Evergreen shrub or small (usually multi-stemmed) tree, flowering in summer with 2.5-5 cm wide, white, pink, or reddish pink flowers in clusters at the end of the branches. Dark green, lanceolate to linear leaves, 5-20 cm long, 1 to 3 cm wide, arranged in twos or threes. Flowers may be, but are not always, scented. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Indigestion can be fatal. Contact with the flowers or foliage may cause severe allergic reactions, so wear long sleeves and gloves when handling Nerium oleander. Its native region stretches from the Mediterranean area to India and Southern China.

The common name alludes to its resemblance to the olive, Olea. Nerium oleander is the official flower of Hiroshima, being the first to flower after the atomic bombing of the city.

Easy to grow in just about any soil. Requires very little maintenance. Prefers a sunny position, but copes with partial shade. Established plants generally don't require fertilisation. Prune for shape in autumn. Can be pruned quite hard. Avoid touching the milky latex that exudes from the cut stems. Tolerates drought, coastal conditions, and moderate frosts (zones 8-11). Suitable for exposed sites, although strong winds may damage flower buds and open flowers. Yellowing of the leaves is usually a sign that the soil is too wet.

A magnificent sight when the plant is completely covered with flowers in summer. There are many cultivars available, with single or double flowers, and in a range of colours. In cold climates, Nerium oleander can be grown in a container and brought indoors for the winter.


Olearia paniculata


Evergreen shrub to 2-4 m tall or, when given sufficient space, a small tree to 6 m tall and 3 m wide, native to New Zealand. Light green, oval to oblong, leathery leaves, 3-10 cm long, 2-4 cm wide. Leaf margins are usually very wavy, but may be flat. Leaf undersides are covered with fine grey-white tomentum. Inconspicuous, creamy white, sweetly scented flower heads are produced in autumn. Occurs naturally in coastal areas, montane scrublands and forest margins of the North and South Islands of New Zealand.

Prefers a sunny or partially shaded position in well-draining soil. Tolerates moderate frosts, and dry, windy, and coastal conditions. Frost hardy throughout New Zealand. Responds well to trimming.

Excellent hedge or screen for coastal sites. Attractive foliage plant with an interesting texture and bright green colour.


Pittosporum crassifolium


New Zealand native evergreen shrub or small tree. Thick, leathery, obovate leaves with rolled down margins, about 6 cm long and 2 cm wide. The leaf undersides and petioles are covered with a dense whitish tomentum. Deep red, fragrant, unisexual flowers in spring, the female ones turning into three- or four-valved seed capsules which eventually split open to reveal shiny black seeds. Provides food for native and exotic birds. Originally occurred naturally near the coast, along streams and in forest margins in the North Island of New Zealand from the North Cape to Poverty Bay, and in the Kermadic Islands. Karo is now naturalised throughout most of New Zealand.

Prefers a sunny or semi-shady position in free-draining soil. Tolerates wind, coastal conditions, relatively dry sites, and moderate frosts (zones 9-11). Usually quite fast growing and problem-free. Prune yearly. Benefits from mulch and compost.

Tough plant with a grey-green overall appearance. Suitable for hedging purposes. The flowers release a delightful scent at night. Excellent choice for seaside gardens as a filler or background plant.