Hungry for spring, we so often choose our trees: cherries, deciduous magnolias, dogwoods, stewartia based on the show they put on at that time. Or we choose fall colour or winter bark. These are all good choices, but today I just want to make a special plea for two truly great trees, Albizia and Magnolia grandiflora.
Walking through the nursery today, I stopped briefly to smell the huge flower of a Magnolia grandiflora sitting at a convenient nose height. Imagine my surprise to find the entire chalice (I assure you there is no better word) packed with bees.
The Albizia needs full sun & good drainage to thrive, but in those conditions, provides the filtered shade most perfect for a patio, or a fishpond. Holds a very tropical appearance — hence the common name mimosa or silk tree. There is now a smaller version 'Summer Chocolate' with foliage that deepens to near chocolate in the summer, adding a wonderful contrast to the rosy pink flowers.
In my own front garden a large Albizia spreads its dappled shade thirty feet high and wide. It is too high for me to notice bees, but butterflies & hummingbirds congregate there all summer.
The Magnolia blooms best in full sun, but, preferring more shelter, will still bloom well in a little shade. It is evergreen, unlike the Albizia, & the foliage is extremely handsome, making it a fantastic anchor plant in a garden. It too looks tropical but in a different way, having a fuzzy brown reverse to the leaves which has earned it the common name 'Teddy-Bear Magnolia'.
Both of these deliciously fragrant, long blooming beauties contribute in their own way to the garden. Bringing an exotic element to your space that adds a great deal of ambience and romance.