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To watch magnolia blooms suddenly unfurl on bare branches is one of early spring's most enchanting moments. The sweetly scented flowers are large and either cupped or a cluster of star-shape petals. Deciduous saucer and star magnolias bloom first and make excellent border companions for early-flowering perennials and bulbs. If frosts occur late in your region, select a later-blooming variety and mulch around the tree so the flower show won't be ruined by surprise cold spells. Southern magnolia grows into a magnificent lofty tree. Its large, dark green leathery leaves are sueded with rusty fuzz on the undersides. Huge bowl-shape flowers appear in midsummer and are intensely fragrant. Both seed pods and leaves furnish interesting botanical shapes for dried wreaths and other decorations. Magnolias prefer moist, well-drained, slightly acidic to neutral soil, although Southern magnolia can tolerate dry, alkaline soil.
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