The naming of this plant is a complicated story. It was and still is widely sold as Michelia yunnanensis. It then had a fling with the name Magnolia dianica but is now Magnolia laevifolia. There are sound reasons for the changing name but it makes it confusing. In this country, it is almost a certainty that you will find it sold under its original name of M. yunnanesis. Michelias have now been reclassified as magnolias. Though evergreen, their foliage is much finer than the tough grandiflora types we normally associate with evergreen magnolias.
“Velvet and Cream” is a particularly good flowered form first released by former Cambridge nurseryman, Peter Cave. It has larger flowers in a beautiful cup form. M. laevifolia sets seed so prolifically that every man and their dog has raised seedlings and named them – some are better than others. Grown in open conditions with full sun, plants will stay bushier and more compact but generally these plants are a little slow to get established but eventually make small trees around the 3 metre mark if not trimmed. They are generally sold as fragrant, though I have yet to find one that has more than just a hint of perfume.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.