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Julian Sutton (2022)
Sutton, J. (2022), 'Magnolia × loebneri' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.
USDA Hardiness Zone 5-9
RHS Hardiness Rating H6
This is a most important and variable group of garden hybrids, including all crosses between Magnolia kobus and M. stellata, backcrosses to either parent, and any of their progeny which do not contain genetic material from additional species. They range from large, multi-stemmed shrubs to small, broad crowned trees; growth rates vary, but can be as much as 60 cm per year in established plants. The elliptic to oblong leaves are similar in size to those of M. stellata. Fragrant flowers are liberally produced even on young plants, as in M. stellata, making these hybrids popular choices for smaller gardens. Flowers emerge before the leaves, as in the parents. The strap-shaped tepals vary considerably between clones in number (8–30), length (flowers ranging from 11–15 cm across) and colour (from pure white through blush and pink to lilac-purple). In the British Isles they are at their best between mid-March and late April, and stand up well to late frosts. In North America they often open rather earlier, with considerable regional variation.
All are remarkably tolerant of diverse soil types, from acidic to alkaline and from light sand to moisture-retentive (but not waterlogged) clay. They will flower in dappled shade but are best in full sun, and are surprisingly wind resistant. While most clones are hardy to USDA Zone 5 there is some variation, reflecting that in their parent M. kobus: some cultivars have been selected specifically for cold tolerance.
The hybrid was first made in early 20th century Germany, by Max Löbner of Dresden then Bonn Botanical Gardens – ‘the Beethoven among Bonn’s gardeners’ (M. Radscheit in General-Anzeiger 2017). It first flowered in 1917; the original plants were sold in 1923, some going to Wilhelm Kordes’ German nursery, others to Hilliers in England (Treseder 1978). Many other breeders, particularly in North America, have repeated the cross using various clones of the parent species; being a fertile hybrid, second-generation and backcrossed seedlings have also been raised. Open-pollinated seedlings too have given rise to cultivars; those which appear not to have influence from further species are included here, following Lobdell (2021). Accidental hybrids have also been raised from seed of the parents in European gardens such as Nymans in England and the Villa Taranto, Italy.
Tepals white, blushed pink at the base, 30 or more. A small tree increasing by about 30–40 cm per year, more compact than ‘Merrill’, and one of the last M. × loebneri to flower. Easily propagated by cuttings. Raised by Joe McDaniel, Illinois in the 1960s, registered 1969. McDaniel was unclear whether this was a self pollinated seedling of M. × loebneri ‘Spring Snow’ or a back cross to M. stellata ‘Waterlily’ (Gardiner 2000). Highly rated by Philippe de Spoelberch, Belgium (pers. comm. 2021).
Flowers white, to 20 cm across, tepals 12–13, broad, opening flat to reflexed. Very beautiful and hardy. A seedling from open-pollinated M. stellata, selected by Harry Heineman, Scituate, MA before 1994, and named for his wife.
Flowers white with 18–25 tepals, flower buds appearing in groups of up to four on the tips as well as along the stem, giving an ‘encore’ as the flowering period is extended, with flowers opening in succession. A slow-growing, medium to large shrub. Open-pollinated seedling of M. × loebneri ‘Ballerina’ selected by August Kehr, Hendersonville, NC, 1988.
Tepals white, tinged green at the base; a small tree. Selected by Duncan and Davies, New Zealand before 2009.
Flowers to 12 cm across with up to 12 tepals, soft lilac-pink, deeper in bud, in April (Britain). Jim Gardiner (2000) observed more intense colour in years with higher average day and night temperatures at RHS Garden Wisley. Among the least vigorous clones, with more crowded branches than others, it nevertheless builds up steadily to form an attractive small tree. Raised by James Comber (c. 1866–1953), head gardener at Nymans, Sussex, registered 1955. Magnificent and deservedly popular; rated a ‘top 10’ magnolia by Philippe de Spoelberch (pers. comm. 2021).
Synonyms / alternative names
Magnolia × loebneri 'Pirouette'
Flowers small, with up to 30 symmetrically arranged tepals, the outer ones shorter, white from cream or pink-tinged buds. A floriferous small to medium shrub. An open-pollinated seedling of M. × loebneri ‘Ballerina’ raised by Tetsuo Magaki, Japan before 2005. Highly rated by Philippe de Spoelberch, Belgium (pers. comm. 2021). Williams, Gardiner & Gallagher (2016) go so far as claiming ‘if you only have room for one magnolia, this will not disappoint and will be far more rewarding than any Magnolia stellata’.
Flowers white, 10–15 cm across, with up to 15 broad tepals. Probably the most vigorous of all M. × loebneri, a broad-crowned tree, growing quickly to 9 m or more in height. A first-generation hybrid raised at the Arnold Arboretum from a cross made by one of Karl Sax’s students in 1939; named for Elmer Merrill, a former director.
White, sometimes pink-flushed, multi-tepalled flowers to 10 cm across, resembling those of M. stellata ‘Rosea’. Vigorous, habit more tree-like. Raised at Windsor Great Park about 1953, from open-pollinated seed of M. stellata ‘Rosea’ sent from Neil McEacharn’s garden at Villa Taranto, Italy.
Tepals 18–25, white, held at all angles including upright, giving a ‘powder puff’ appearance. Open-pollinated seedling of M. × loebneri ‘Ballerina’, sister to ‘Encore’, selected by August Kehr, Hendersonville, NC, 1987.
Flowers to 12 cm across, tepals 16–18, light pink inside, darker with a deep stripe outside. A dense, large shrub with zig-zag branches. Open-pollinated seedling of M. × loebneri ‘Leonard Messel’ selected 1987 by Carl Ferris Miller, Chollipo Arboretum, S Korea. Williams, Gardiner & Gallagher (2016) highlight its intensity of colour, comparing it favourably to the ‘weak pinkish’ M. stellata cultivars.
Synonyms / alternative names
Magnolia × loebneri SPRING WELCOME®
RHS Hardiness Rating: H7
USDA Hardiness Zone: 3b-9
Flowers white, ~11 cm across, with 11–13 tepals. Selected for extreme hardiness by North Dakota State University before 2009. The issue of whether ‘Ruth’ or ‘Spring Welcome’ is the correct cultivar name is not fully resolved (Lobdell 2021). Magnolia ‘Ruth’ is a quite different hybrid (see Magnolia Cultivars Q–R ‘Ruth’).
Flowers white, with 12 tepals opening flat. A medium to large shrub. One of the original seedlings sent to Hillier Nurseries, Hampshire, from Germany.
Flowers with 15 pure white tepals, each ~8 × 4 cm; early flowering. A round-headed small tree selected by Joe McDaniel, IL, registered 1970. ‘My preferred white loebneri,’ writes Philippe de Spoelberch, ‘with fresh greenish undertones’ (pers. comm. 2021).
Synonyms / alternative names
Magnolia kobus 'Two Stones'
Magnolia stellata 'Two Stones'
Flowers with about 25 thick, pure white tepals, the outer 10–12 spreading, the remainder forming a central cup at first (Gardiner 2000). Raised before 1994 by August Kehr, NC, this cultivar is tentatively placed here, having been assigned to both its putative parents in the literature: the high tepal number coupled with arborescent habit seem to suggest M. × loebneri (Lobdell 2021). Usually listed as one of Kehr’s colchicine-induced tetraploids, flow-cytometry suggests that is actually a diploid (Parris et al. 2010). Starred as a distinctive plant by Philippe de Spoelberch, Belgium (pers. comm. 2021). The literature is oddly silent on the origin of its peculiar cultivar name.
Flowers cup-shaped; tepals about 22, white, the outer ones stained pink at the base. A large, floriferous shrub. Open-pollinated seedling of M. × loebneri ‘Ballerina’ raised by William Siedl, WI, before 1989.
Flowers white, with 14–15 erect tepals; large shrub or small tree with good dark foliage. Introduced by Tom Dodd Nursery, AL, before 2010.
Flowers soft pink ageing white, 10–12.5 cm across, over a six week period; tepals ~52; open flowers resemble pompom chrysanthemums. Medium to large shrub selected by Larry Langford, TN, from seed labelled Magnolia kobus var. borealis sent by William Seidl.
Synonyms / alternative names
Magnolia × loebneri 'Willow Wood'
Flowers white, to 18 cm across, with 11–14 tepals. A floriferous selection made at Willowwood Arboretum, NJ, before 1952.