The most spectacular flowering trees of the early spring season must surely be the magnolias. But not everybody has room for a large, spreading tree festooned with enormous blooms. Manchu Fan has long been one of our recommendations for a smaller growing white variety. It is not that the individual blooms are drop dead gorgeous and showy. They are just white goblets with a pink blush at the base but they have heavy textured petals (or tepals, as magnolia petals are more accurately described) which withstand weather damage. And there are lots and lots of them, produced on a small growing, upright, narrow tree that will fit in urban gardens.
Manchu Fan was bred by American hybridist, Todd Gresham, in the middle of last century. There are a fair number of his selections named – enough to be referred to internationally as ‘the Gresham hybrids’. Of the ones we have grown, Manchu Fan is the standout performer. After maybe 20 years, our plant is 5m high by 3m wide without any trimming or shaping. In overall performance, it is not hugely different to the better known M. denudata but, because it flowers later in the season, it escapes frost damage and the tree will remain smaller in the long term. It also has a longer flowering season.
Manchu Fan is in commercial production in this country and available on the market. For the purists, its breeding is (M. soulangeana ‘Lennei Alba’ x M. veitchii).
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.