March plant of the month

A majestic yet manageable magnolia adds grace and charm to the spring garden

Magnolia 'Judy'March heralds the true start of spring when many iconic plants begin flowering – none more so than magnolias. These majestic plants are always associated with the start of the gardening year and the profusion of flowers and blossom that emerges at this wonderful time in the garden.

Magnolia ‘Judy’ has beautiful upright, slender, candle-like flowers that gradually unfurl to reveal purple petals, darker at the base and paler at the tips and inside and lasting for several weeks.

Magnolias can vary from tree-like specimens to smaller shrubby varieties that make fine statements in the garden. Magnolia ‘Judy’ is a relatively small, shrubby magnolia that is slow growing and has a similar width to height, reaching around 3m (10ft), with a rounded crown. It can therefore easily be used in mixed plantings or shrub borders and is ideal for the smaller garden, it is part of the Little Girl Series of magnolias that were bred in the USA in the 1950s. 

As with all magnolias, the exact point they start flowering will vary considerably depending on the weather conditions but this series of magnolias generally flowers a week or two later than many others which means they are less likely to be caught by late frosts.

At RHS Garden Hyde Hall you can find ‘Judy’ in one of the island beds in the Hilltop Garden in combination with other plants including birches and crab apples which give it a little shelter. The crab apples are smothered in blossom around the same time the magnolia flowers, which makes a spectacular sight. Lower-growing perennials and bulbs work well around the base of magnolias, such as Narcissus ‘Mount Hood', a large cream-flowered daffodil; as well as other spring flowering gems such as Brunnera and Omphalodes both with small bright blue flowers.

Magnolia 'Caerhays Surprise'See also

RHS advice: how to grow magnolias

Magnolias for small gardens

Partner Gardens picks: Caerhays magnolias and camellias

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