Spring Before Valentines

Rain soaked and warm weather produces early blooming

Star Magnolia in flower

Saucer Magnolia in bud

While there’s a rainy week ahead and warmer than usual temperatures, don’t be surprised what is in bloom. For many years the early blooming star magnolias were rarely allowed to have only a few blooms before being burned by cold weather. Because of the warmer temperatures in January and February we are seeing them in full bloom now. While the lesser know of the spring flowering magnolias, it is a sensational flowering small tree that takes on a beautiful oriental stem structure when bare. Royal Star is an excellent selection for our area. The more common saucer magnolia, which generally blooms in late February and also used to get its flowers damaged by cold more than ever being in full bloom, is now in bud with a touch of color. Actually with the warm weather this week I am expecting the early selections coming into full bloom as early as this week. Both of these magnolias are showcase bloomers and have beautiful winter stem structures if pruned to keep the suckers removed and fade away into the landscape when in leaf. They can grow well in damp soil or any other type of fertile soil if watered in the dry season. I recently read that in the last 10 years our average temperature change is 5 degrees, and I think that might be true. But I am sure that a few weeks of above average temperatures won’t last. I will be shocked if we do not have a couple of very cold snaps before what we all think of as Spring. So, be prepared some of our spring flowers will turn brown because of the cold.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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