This will probably be the last magnolia post of the year and it is another yellow one. You may well ask why does anyone want a yellow magnolia when there are loads of very good pink and white ones but plant breeders like a challenge! While most magnolia species have pink and white flowers plant breeders looked to the American cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata) for the yellow colouring to add to their hybrids. The cucumber tree, which is more or less native to the Appalachians, is not a great garden tree: it is too tall at about 25m when mature and, although the flowers are greenish yellow, they are hidden among the leaves and are far from showy. The common name comes from the large, cucumber-like fruits but these are not really enough to make it a viable option for the average garden. In addition, the flowers open from April to June so lots are lost among the leaves, though the long flowering period is potentially an asset, as is its hardiness.
Like the popular and pale yellow ‘Elizabeth’, ‘Golden Sun’ is a hybrid of Magnolia acuminata and M. denudata. While the flowers are hardly golden they are a good yellow. References say the flowers are fragrant though I have to say I don’t detect a lot of scent. But because this is planted here I can say that it is a good magnolia and, having been in the ground two years, it is already flowering quite well. The plant is 2m high and has about six open flowers but there are some smaller buds that will open in a few weeks. The flowers are opening before and with the leaves so they are quite showy. It was raised in the USA by David Leach and introduced in 1997. Magnolia acuminata prefers an acid soil so I assume that this will do best in a similar or neutral soil. It should be pyramidal in shape and will probably grow to about 5m high when mature. While yellow magnolias do not have the vibrancy of laburnums and they may never be as popular as pink varieties, they have an undoubted charm and I am very fond of them.