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Botanist's Lens: Save the best for the last!

Now that most spring blooming flowers have wrapped their show, the highlights of early summer flowers have just started blooming at London Town. Of all the Magnolias, the Southern Magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) are the grandest and the largest. Their evergreen, leathery and glossy leaves steal the show by themselves. But as soon as the first white blossom opens up, that one flower can steal the whole show!

London Town has at least 5 mature Southern Magnolias, with 'DD Blanchard' being the best of the bunch. The underside of the DD Blanchard leaves have a rusty brown color and their flowers have a cup shape.

Southern Magnolias are often found in moist woodland and hardwood hammocks. They are excellent as a specimen tree or shade tree.

Illicium henryi is another late spring to early summer bloomer at London Town. Aesthetically speaking, Illicium (Star Anise) can be the star of any shade garden; the elegant soft rose pink droopy flowers are absolutely breathtaking. But wait till you learn more about how botanically important and ancient this plant is. The Latin name 'Illicium' comes from Latin from 'allurement' which refers to the aromatic scent of leaves when crushed. To me they smell exactly like crushed Mango leaves (Mangifera indica). Illiciums belong to the moist understory and shady habitats. Illiciums are one of the oldest Angiosperms in the chain of evolution. In fact, their vascular tissues are more similar to gymnosperms than angiosperms.

In the coming weeks, if you visit London Town, be sure to trek down the woodland garden paths to find Illicium henryi and then on to the ornamental gardens to cherish the beauty and fragrance of the Southern Magnolia 'DD Blanchard'. Both these plants are great addition to any garden that gets dappled shade.

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