A Spicy New Magnolia

January of 2013 was cold. As my first January in Maine, I was not prepared for the lack of light and just how frigid it can get here. One thing that has really been fun and helped alleviate the cold this winter was pouring through all of the catalogs and placing orders for new plants to add to the gardens. A few of my orders were emailed into the nurseries but other orders I phoned in. In doing this, I learned a valuable lesson by calling the nurseries directly. The first is that I get to “meet” the people that work there. There is nothing better than talking with the people who work there over the phone. Usually, they are some of the nicest, most passionate plant geeks that you will ever talk with. The second is that I get to learn about some really cool and interesting plants that I might have skipped in the catalog or that might have missed their printing deadline.

magnolia ginter spicy white
One such plant came to my attention just by speaking with the folks at a nursery over the phone. I was placing my order with Jason at Rare Find Nursery when he told me about a new magnolia bred by a volunteer at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia. This new tree is called Magnolia ‘Ginter Spicy White.’

This tree is supposed to have large, creamy white flowers with a spicy fragrance, thus the name. The leaves are described as being large and deciduous, probably due to the fact that its parents are: Magnolia sieboldii, Magnolia ashei, and Magnolia tripetala ‘Bloomfield.‘ If you remember Mendelian genetics from your 9th grade biology class, what this volunteer, Bill Smith, did was first hybridize Magnolia sieboldii with Magnolia ashei. The resultant offspring (F1) was then crossed with the Magnolia tripetala ‘Bloomfield.’ One of the offspring from this cross was selected (the F2) by Mr. Smith for its flowers, fragrance, and leaves. I love magnolias, especially the ones he used for this plant breeding project, so I cannot wait to see how the Ginter Spicy White magnolia performs in our gardens here in Maine. Thanks to Jason for telling me about this exciting new tree. When you are ordering plants this winter and spring, take time to call the nurseries and get to know the people who work there. Chances are you might learn about a cool (or spicy), new plant!


Photo: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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  1. Stein on February 5, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Hello there. I just happened to stumble across your blog today. Thank you for the post on the spicy new magnolia. I had never heard about it before! I have a garden in Sweden, Europe where I among other things try to establish a woodland garden. I have started planting a few magnolia types, but am always on the lookout for more 😉 I see Richmond, Virginia is USDA zone 7, so I guess it is doubtful it would survive the winters in my area (zone 5) but will be on the lookout for test results for my zones 😉
    Have a nice day.
    Regards from Scandinavia.

  2. Jonah Holland (@lewisginter) on February 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks for writing about Ginter ‘Spicy White’ we are very excited to see our own specimens bloom this spring too. Please let us know what you think of it after it gets established. I’ll be sure to post photos of ours this spring too, so stay tuned!
    Stein, I think you may be right that zone 5 is too cold, but the next time I see Bill White, I will ask him and let you know. I do remember him saying that one of the great things about Ginter ‘Spicy White’ is that it is more cold hardy than many magnolias.

    • rodneyeason on February 5, 2013 at 2:05 pm

      Thanks, Jonah! This is an exciting breeding project of Bill’s.

  3. Delane on February 10, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Wow! I have never even heard of a spicy magnolia. Interesting!
    I gotta share this with my mother.

  4. Florida Landscaping Company on February 26, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Magnolias are a beautiful addition to many home landscape gardens and we’re lucky to see so many here in Florida gardens. I was not familiar with the ‘spicy white’ variety – thanks for sharing the info and pictures!

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