It is perhaps not widely realised that New Zealand leads the world when it comes to red magnolias, both in terms of breeding them and in the intensity of colour we get. We put this down to a combination of soil conditions and light. What flowers with good rich colour here can look pretty washed out and murky at times in the UK and Europe. New Zealanders tend to take the red colours for granted while magnolia enthusiasts overseas turn green with envy.
This one is Burgundy Star. It forms a narrow pillar shaped tree, not wider than two metres maximum. Because of this shape (described as fastigiate), it makes a splendid feature where space is limited, such as beside driveways. It gives height without much width. The flowers are towards the stellata (or star) magnolias in form but much larger and with firmer petals so they don’t get as floppy. And red. The stellatas are predominantly white, sometimes tinged pink. Because it sets flower buds down the stem, the season is extended. Magnolias which only set buds on the tips have a big display and are then pretty much over for the season.
Any of the deep coloured magnolias look best when planted in a position where the flowers are viewed with the light shining from behind.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.