The Perfect Plant?

Photo courtesy of Whitney Rideout

A friend spotted and grabbed it at Hortlandia, the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon’s spring plant and garden art sale. Then she proudly showed her treasure to the rest of us. “Is there another one at the Cistus Nursery table?” I inquired. Sadly, “No,” she said. Darling, coppery and diminutive are the words that came to mind when I first saw my friend’s Magnolia laevifolia. The perfect small tree (or large shrub), I thought, for a shared space between my house and the neighbor who loves magnolias. Something to be enjoyed by the neighbors throughout the year. It could be a gift to all of us.

In the words of Cistus Nursery on

Stunning plant! Recently called M. dianica and previously Michelia yunnanensis but this plant is always fabulous with its graceful, ropey foliage; profuse, intensely fragrant white blooms in spring and summer; and first rate cinnamon indumentum on the buds in autumn! This form has pleasingly rounded leaves and a more compact habit than the straight species, reaching only 6-8 ft in time. Easily accepts sun to half shade with regular water. Frost hardy in USDA zone 8 and very possibly into mid zone 7.

And Xera Plants’ description from the same website: A wonderful evergreen shrub with rounded leaves that are deep green and backed with a brown indumentum which coats the stems as well. Conical growing to 10′ tall and half as wide in 8′ years. The flower buds are coated in brown fur as well and are formed in the previous year and are showy through the winter. They open to 6 petalled white very fragrant flowers in April and are profuse born along the lithe stems. Unlike other Magnolias they are not brittle and are not damaged in snow and ice bending easily. This undemanding and handsome shrub is at home in full sun as well as shade in well drained soil with regular irrigation though it is tolerant of dry conditions when established. There are other named forms of this shrub which we have found to be not as hardy to cold. This form is cold hardy to at least 5 °F and has performed for the last 12 years with no damage from the coldest temperatures.

Seems a trip to Cistus Nursery is in order. If you get there first, leave one for me, please!