Magnolia Butterflies

Though I have written about Butterflies Magnolia before, I cannot ignore the best bloom ever going on right now.  Please bear with me.  This magnolia was bred by Phil Savage, a native of my area.  His work hybridizing magnolias is known internationally.  Al Goldner, a landscape designer for whom I worked in the 1980’s, took me to his property to meet him, and see his work.  I planted these trees 8 years ago, and surrounded them with formal rectangles of boxwood.  They were breathtaking when I got home last night.

The duration of time any magnolia blooms is very short, but I would not miss it.  The flowers are so spectacular, the week or better I get every year is worth the wait, and the regret at the end.   But magnolias also have beautiful smooth grey bark, and very architectural branching.  The large glossy leaves are beautiful the entire season long.  There are a lot of good reasons to plant them.   This particular cultivar is trouble free for me-all I do is look at them.

The individual flowers of Butterflies has the classic magnolia shape and petal count.  The flowers are small, but so so lovely.  It is the pale yellow flower of Butterflies which is so startlingly different than most magnolias.  Though Phil Savage passed away a few years ago, his property still exists, intact.  I have seen peach flowered magnolias grafted onto ash tree rootstock-60 feet tall there.  His niece, Patty Y,  is a client of mine; she took me there last year to see all of his magnolias in bloom.  Were it my call, his property would immediately be declared a national treasure and cared for in perpetuity.  There are trees on that property that exist no where else on earth.  The no where else on earth idea is an important one.  This is an idea which guides my garden making.  I want a garden that is just mine; when I get home, I know there is no other place like it on earth.     

As I said, these trees have been in the ground for eight years.  Though our spring has been miserably cold and nasty, they started blooming yesterday as if they had 10 minutes to live.  I have never had so many flowers.  There are thousands of yellow flowers.  Buck and I had a glass of wine out there last night-heavenly. 

By heavenly, I mean this.  I live in an urban neighborhood-a major 5 lane road just one block away.  Last night, these trees transported me to another place and time.  If you are a gardener, you understand how a beautiful moment in a garden is the next best thing to heaven.  Though I planted these magnolias as single trunked trees, they are also grown in my area as multitrunked shrubby trees.  Imagine a hedge of yellow magnolias, can you? Will you? 

My Butterflies-a highlight of my gardening year.


  1. I can imagine your delight in these magnificent trees. Thank you for sharing the photographs and the story.

  2. I absolutely love these…I was looking to plant a magnolia tree soon…I might have to give these a whirl. Thanks for sharing. I love your work, design, and writings!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Malanie, there are so many great magnolias-my small urban yard has 12!! They are so worth having. Thanks for your letter, Deborah

  3. Deborah, please ask ms Y if you can photo and share images of Mr Savage’s garden with us. Would love to see it…and documenting what is still there is at least one way of saving it!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Patrick, I have tried to photograph them-I am not good enough. The flowers are so high in the trees. Many of the trees are indeed 60 feet tall-some have been grafted onto ash tree rootstock; the appreance of the grafts alone are amazing. I would have tried to photograph again this year, but our magnolia season was cut so short by temperatures in the high 80’s. My butterflies were browned out within 3 days. The petals of my Galaxy magnolias are on the driveway now, after 4 days in bloom. Maybe next year! Deborah

  4. I’m so happy to have found these photos of mature Magnolia Butterflies ! My husband and I just planted a 4 foot tree in our front yard in Illinois, so we are looking forward to next Spring when it blooms !

  5. Steve Carlson says

    Your photographs of Magnolia Butterflies are spectacular ! I have one and enjoy it very much. You are exactly right when you say ” a beautiful moment in the garden is the next best thing to heaven “. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Thanks! Love those magnolias. Not one flower bud survived the April freeze last year. I am holding my breath-wanting so much to see them bloom again.

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