At first, the buds do look a little like Tulips, which leads many to use the name “Tulip Tree” for Magnolia Jane and other hybrid Magnolia cultivars. There are many types of Magnolias, both deciduous and evergreen. In addition to Tulip Tree, lots of other names are often used to describe these cultivars including Saucer Magnolia, Chinese Magnolia and Japanese Magnolia, putting them all into one bucket. Although the Tulip Tree is in the Magnolia family it is a *very large and different tree from Magnolia Jane and should be planted with  a lot more room to grow. More information about the Tulip Tree follows but first, let me tell you about Magnolia Jane.

*Be sure to take a look at the photo of a real Tulip Tree, by Merrilee Brock below. The size of the tree and the size and color the blooms are dramatically different from Magnolia Jane and the “Little Girls” series of Magnolias. Anyone purchasing and planting either of these Magnolias would need to understand the difference.

Magnolia Jane, part of the "Little Girls" Series

As we were preparing to list our former property for sale, I studied the blooms on my favorite trees and shrubs very carefully. Many of these were on the property when I moved in. They were mature and beautiful and I knew that I’d miss them when we moved. I wanted to be sure that I could find them to plant at our new place. I’d been tending, pruning and enjoying them for so many years – they were almost like our children. We’d watched them grow year after year and I wanted to be able to find the same varieties again so I did some research.

Magnolia Jane, part of the "Little Girls Series"

Early each Spring, after only a few warm sunny days broke the cycle of cold wintery days, this Magnolia Jane let us know that Spring was on the way. The buds look like large Pussy Willows for several weeks before this tender magenta bud begins to emerge. My favorite time is in it’s early budding stages because I love the contrast of the bright magenta petals emerging from the fuzzy flower buds. The bright purplish-pink blooms appear to be scattered like ornaments among the gray limbs of the tree.

Magnolia Jane, part of the "Little Girls Series"

The inside of the flower petals is pale pink – almost white. When the blossoms open fully, the texture of the tree changes completely as it is covered in white fluffy blossoms. Only a slight trace of magenta remains. Magnolia Jane is a gorgeous addition to the landscape and is truly spectacular at every stage.

Magnolia Jane, part of the "Little Girls Series"

I took lots of photographs to document our favorites throughout the seasons. When our last Spring season unfolded there, I studied leaves and blooms more carefully than ever.

Side Note: As I have reviewed and sorted photos, I have been reminded that there are many reasons to use proper cameras and a tripod to capture garden details. My iPhone Pro has a remarkable camera that I love, particularly for unexpected and spontaneous photo opportunities. Sometimes, though, the images can look distorted – especially when working with changes in the depth of field. It can be challenging to shoot garden and nature images with any camera. You can spend lots of time painstakingly composing the shot, setting up the tripod, studying light readings and adjusting the camera settings then, just when you push the button to shoot, the wind will blow throwing the subject out of focus!

Magnolia Jane, part of the "Little Girls Series"

During that last season, I kept our old Pentax camera and lenses within reach. I watched the light and captured a progression of images over several weeks as our beloved Magnolia Jane began to bloom. I’m so glad that I did. I’ve enjoyed revisiting the photos and I’m sharing several of the images in this blog post.

Magnolia Jane, part of the "Little Girls Series"

Magnolia Jane

As I researched Tulip Trees and Magnolias, I discovered that ours was actually a shrub – often grown as a small tree, specifically Magnolia Jane. It was about 12 feet tall when we left and we had always pruned it into a tree form. Magnolia Jane is actually a hybrid, one of the “Little Girl Series”, developed in the 1950s by breeders at the National Arboretum. The breeders crossed lily magnolia (Magnolia liliflora) with one of two Magnolia stellata cultivars (‘Rosea’ and ‘Waterlily’). They selected a series of superior hybrids and each plant was given a girl’s name (there are about a dozen girl’s names in the Little Girl Series). There is a great document about the Little Girls series that includes photos and descriptions of each can be accessed on National Arboretum website

I also found a great article by Dan Gill, LSU AgCenter horticulturalist. He explained that “Japanese Magnolias” are a hybrid (cross) between 2 Chinese species of Magnolias – Magnolia liliiflora (lily magnolia) and Magnolia denudate (white saucer or Yulan magnolia).

Mr. Gill suggested that early spring is a great time to plant one of these trees because you can select one while it is in bloom at a nursery (so you’ll know exactly what you are buying) and it will have a few months to adjust before the summer heat begins.

The Real Tulip Tree is a Tall Deciduous Tree and a Member of the Magnolia Family

During Master Gardening classes, I remembered hearing that there was confusion about the name “Tulip Tree”. The Tulip Tree, or Tulip Poplar is also in the Magnolia family. It has yellow-orange tulip-shaped blooms in the spring and beautiful golden leaves in the fall. It is native to North America and actually the state tree of Kentucky. It is a fast growing tree and grows very tall, According to the USDA, it can reach 80′ – 120′ tall.

Another side note, just as I was writing this blog article, Lauren Walker, a member of the Georgia Backyard Gardening group that I follow on Facebook, shared the picture on the right below. She was asking if anyone could help identify the bloom from a tree in her yard. I was thrilled to see an example of a Tulip Poplar in bloom. I reached out to the Lauren and the group, asking if anyone had photos of a Tulip Poplar bloom to share. Lauren’s photo includes her hand, which gives a sense of the scale of these blooms and she agreed for me to include her photo here. Several people in the gardening group responded and offered to take photos when their trees came into bloom. My sister, Merrilee Brock also follows the same group. She recently moved to a new home and I had no idea that she had a Tulip Poplar on her new property until she shared the photos on the left below with me this weekend. Merrilee included a photo looking up into the very tall, Tulip Poplar. This is very helpful, showing the big difference in size between a Tulip Tree and Magnolia Jane or one of the “Little Girls” series. Together these images help tell the Tulip Poplar story. However, Tulip Poplars also have beautiful autumn color. I’m planning to capture some more images in the fall and I’ll create a new post, dedicated to the Real Tulip Poplar!

The Real Tulip Tree, a Tulip Polar is in the Magnolia FamilyWe still have a lot of work to do on our new property. I’m eager to get my vegetable beds going. We’ve been studying the light (and shade) as the seasons change, developing soil and creating planting beds to be ready to bring the right plants home when we come across them. We’ve been browsing different nurseries this Spring. I’ve seen other cultivars with lighter or darker and larger flowers but I’m holding out for Magnolia Jane.

*Photos on the GardenZeal website and blog should not be used without permission from GardenZeal creator, Laurie Wakefield. Contact Laurie here to inquire.