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I'd like to plant a magnolia tree at the edge of the garden where it meets the concrete of an adjacent parking lot. There is clear morning sun. Light from the South and West is somewhat obstructed by other threes.

How can I go about this in such circumstances? What is a decent minimum distance for planting such a tree from where the concrete begins? What distance should be kept from other tees? What size of plant should I look for and what is a good time to plant it?

I've seen white and purple magnolias that both blossom in Central Europe around early April. Could I even plant one of each kind (color) and expect both to grow next to each other to similar size?

The location is Central Europe (zone 6). In terms of size and and flowers, this and that is roughly what I have in mind.


UPDATE: Here is a sketch of the situation. An ashed rectangle indicates the approx. size of a car. It's visitor parking space and usually not all slots are taken. Up is East. I thought it would be nice to plant a magnolia tree close to the corner of the parking lot (and perhaps a second one to its right.)

enter image description here

  • First thing we will likely need is your USDA zone planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb assuming you are in the US or the local equivalent. – Anubis Mar 28 '15 at 19:31
  • @Anubis, Drux is located in Central Europe. – J. Musser Mar 28 '15 at 20:01
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    In that case this will work: houzz.com/europeZoneFinder – Anubis Mar 28 '15 at 20:46
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    @stormy It's not that I'm ignorant about rules of aesthetics, why would you think so? – Drux Mar 30 '15 at 20:09
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    Most people don't know that there are rules, Drux. Most people are great with indoor environments but very few 'get it' with the garden. Please don't misunderstand. I have had to tear out so much hard work, design around mistakes and educate my clients so they could maintain and enjoy their outdoor environment. I am also talking to others reading these comments. I'd like to help you is all. I never meant to put you down and never knowingly would!! Grins... – stormy Mar 31 '15 at 21:39
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The first requirement for any magnolia is deep, humus rich soil which doesn't constantly dry out - it shouldn't be waterlogged though. Magnolias generally don't like chalky soil, so a neutral to acid ph is best. Most deciduous species and M. grandiflora tolerate some sun, but all benefit from light shade.

There are two compact varieties you could plant, if there's enough room - Magnolia liliiflora 'Nigra', which has deep, purplish pink tulip shaped flowers, ultimate height 3 metres, with a similar spread, and another compact variety is M. 'George Henry Kern', with pink vased shaped flowers, reaching ultimately 2.5 metres with a similar spread. Both are deciduous.

Alternatively, if you really want a medium to large tree, there are many which reach 15-18 metres, but something not quite so large is Magnolia 'Jane', with open to cup shaped fragrant flowers, deep pink on the outside and very pale pink within. It's deciduous, and the flowers are produced on bare stems, before the leaves arrive. Height and spread 4.5m with a similar spread to the crown.

The other thing to consider is the mess - if it's windy when the tree is in flower, the flowers are dashed to the ground and blown all over the place. If its not windy, the flowers remain, but when they fall, there is a fair bit of mess to clear up on the ground - which might be important if all the spent flowers end up in the parking lot or any parked cars present. It's not wise to plant one of these in an area which is open and quite windy a lot of the time.

If you can provide the correct growing conditions, distance from the concrete should be around 1.5metres as a minimum. Best planting time either spring or autumn, but you will need to keep the tree well watered during dry spells for its first two years.

UPDATED ANSWER: All stands as before, but I see your drawing shows asphalt, not concrete, in which case, minimum planting distance from that increases to 2 metres - asphalt can easily be 'heaved' up by large roots beneath.

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    @Drux - one thing, now I've read all the comments - bear in mind these trees only flower for a couple of weeks - you may want to consider what else you can plant that you'll find attractive for the other 50 weeks of the year. – Bamboo Mar 31 '15 at 14:31
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Looking forward to seeing the area you intend to plant these Magnolias. Concrete makes soil much more alkaline, lawns like this, not sure about Magnolias but since they love acid soils of the Northwest, I have a feeling that the concrete won't be that great. And as they grow, the roots can bust up concrete...etc.

Magnolias are great WAY out in the garden. Very messy if these have the huge flowers, bees, gooey...they are also very breakable in high winds. As an evergreen, there is an awful lot of weight on the branches during the winters. Wind storms can shear these guys in half.

What concerns me is 'how close can i get to the concrete parking lot'...are you trying to block the parking lot from view? How big of a yard do you have? Are you planting them in fluffy plant beds or right on the edge of a flat lawn? And, to give you a good suggestion without knowing anything else...DON'T GET ONE OF THIS TREE AND ONE OF THIS OTHER COLOR!! As a Landscape Architect, one of the first 'rules' one learns about aesthetics in the landscape is to keep 'specimens' FEW!! Never buy one of anything unless it will be a focal point, the focal point. If you are going to have trees, think MASS. Much more natural and much more punch. Human brains get wiggy when there is more than 3 different things to think about. Send more information and definitely more pictures that show your entire yard...landscaping is very expensive. So smart to ask questions on this site before you make mistakes in your yard...

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    Many magnolias are deciduous. The deciduous ones rarely fall apart in winter. And I haven't seen one break up concrete yet... – J. Musser Mar 28 '15 at 22:30
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    +1 I'll see if I can do a sketch of the location and post it here. About colors: I generally like to put items in my garden that I remember fondly from elsewhere (it's more a sentimental than an aesthetic thing and certainly not driven by "one of this ... and one of this"). But I'll reconsider. Are there any books or other resources about "aesthetics in the landscape" that you would recommend? – Drux Mar 29 '15 at 5:33

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