January of 2013 was cold. As my first January in Maine, I was not prepared for the lack of light and just how frigid it can get here. One thing that has really been fun and helped alleviate the cold this winter was pouring through all of the catalogs and placing orders for new plants to add to the gardens. A few of my orders were emailed into the nurseries but other orders I phoned in. In doing this, I learned a valuable lesson by calling the nurseries directly. The first is that I get to “meet” the people that work there. There is nothing better than talking with the people who work there over the phone. Usually, they are some of the nicest, most passionate plant geeks that you will ever talk with. The second is that I get to learn about some really cool and interesting plants that I might have skipped in the catalog or that might have missed their printing deadline.
One such plant came to my attention just by speaking with the folks at a nursery over the phone. I was placing my order with Jason at Rare Find Nursery when he told me about a new magnolia bred by a volunteer at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia. This new tree is called Magnolia ‘Ginter Spicy White.’
This tree is supposed to have large, creamy white flowers with a spicy fragrance, thus the name. The leaves are described as being large and deciduous, probably due to the fact that its parents are: Magnolia sieboldii, Magnolia ashei, and Magnolia tripetala ‘Bloomfield.‘ If you remember Mendelian genetics from your 9th grade biology class, what this volunteer, Bill Smith, did was first hybridize Magnolia sieboldii with Magnolia ashei. The resultant offspring (F1) was then crossed with the Magnolia tripetala ‘Bloomfield.’ One of the offspring from this cross was selected (the F2) by Mr. Smith for its flowers, fragrance, and leaves. I love magnolias, especially the ones he used for this plant breeding project, so I cannot wait to see how the Ginter Spicy White magnolia performs in our gardens here in Maine. Thanks to Jason for telling me about this exciting new tree. When you are ordering plants this winter and spring, take time to call the nurseries and get to know the people who work there. Chances are you might learn about a cool (or spicy), new plant!