Magnolia ‘Goldfinch’

There are no shirkers on my premises. At least, not of the woody kind. If you’re going to hang around in my yard, you darn well better perform. And I’m not just talking about a brief blooming gig, either. I want to be entertained 365. Doesn’t everyone?

So, flowers are a nice perk on a magnolia. They’re a thrill, to be sure. But they’re a titillation that is often nipped in the bud, quite literally. What really gets my cardiac kerthudding is the open-branched silhouette of a majestic magnolia.

“Flowers are gravy,” is what I tell friends the morning after a heavy frost when I rush out to find all my hopes of a sublime blossom display smitten. But the stiff upper lip is really just a cover-up. It’s just my way of justifying one of my many idiotic mistakes. That’s right, you guessed it = I planted a magnolia in a frost pocket. It’s clueless, but true. Hopefully, you won’t fall into the same duh moment. When it comes to magnolias, it’s location, location, location. Without a doubt, you want to put your tree where it will look ravishing. But even more important is finding a place where frost doesn’t settle early in spring.

So, my Magnolia ‘Goldfinch’ sometimes get’s zapped. Which is a pity. Because in a gentle year, its yellow, luminous blossoms are a delight to behold. I look forward to them like a child anticipates summer’s first ice cream cone. But when life delivers no desserts, I find solace in the fact that ‘Goldfinch’ has such a fine physique. A hybrid made by Phil Savage of Michigan (with ‘Miss Honeybee’ and M. denudata ‘Sawada’s Cream’ in its lineage and originally called ‘Mailman Yellow’, rumor has it), ‘Goldfinch’ has a broad, spreading habit that fills its space with open arms. And really, most years it manages to come in after the last of the killer frosts. On the other hand, it blooms early in its lifespan.

Speaking of lifespans, my advice to you is this = Don’t bother to purchase a large-sized magnolia from a nursery. They grow like green lightning. Most take a few years before they blossom (‘Goldfinch’ being an exception and getting right down to business), but they grow rapidly.

‘Goldfinch’ isn’t the only magnolia on my property. I also have a Magnolia stellata hybrid (probably mixed with a M. x soulangiana, but it’s parentage seems to have been a capricious moment rather than planned parenthood). It has white flowers and blossoms much earlier than ‘Goldfinch’. Even so, it usually manages to get a strong blossom stint in simply because it sits close to the road where hot air whizzes by on a regular basis. The flowers aren’t as graceful in form as ‘Goldfinch’, but the tree has a gorgeous profile. It’s especially spectacular when naked. Not everybody can boast similarly.

Oh, and speaking of naked limbs. Deer seem to like to bully the branches of magnolias on a regular basis, especially in autumn. They rub their antlers against magnolias (why me?) with a vendetta that has provoked me to build a barricade around my trees. ‘Goldfinch’ was scraped to within an inch of its life, but it bravely soldiered on.

Recently, I’ve added to the bounty — trying to stay on the safe side of the frost waves. Since most of my property is on slightly shaky territory for late frosts, my strategy is to go with late bloomers. Both my new additions have glowing colors — ‘Coral Lake’ (luminous peach) and ‘Flamingo’ (the same hue as the name implies). They both seem to have a dense branch structure to form a tighter tree than the open stretch of ‘Goldfinch’. But I’ll keep you posted.

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12 Responses to Magnolia ‘Goldfinch’

  1. Lisa from PA says:

    Magnolia ‘Goldfinch’ is a lovely shaped tree and I appreciate the name and color of the flower, because we have so many goldfinches in our backyard, they practically own the joint! I understand about frost concerns, but how do you tell if your property lies in a frost pocket? I am in zone 5 in a valley where I’m told we can get away with 6. I am surrounded by tall arborvitae on the west, an old tall silver maple on the north, two yards over on the east is a huge stand of spruce trees, and on my hot south side in front of the house is a weeping ornamental cherry. I feel like I’m in a protected pocket, and not out in the open where frost can get in there and do some damage. It looks like the second picture shows the magnolia down near a river bed. Is that a frost concern? Oh, just received my Summer 2011 issue of Country Gardens~ wonderful two articles of yours in there! I just love ‘things’ in the garden that mean something fun. I have an old black wrought iron bust near my white fence that looks like it came from the ladies’ department store. I hope to grow either morning glories or nasturtiums over it. The article about peonies has me drooling. I have but one peony plant in my garden and it has yet to bloom. Fingers crossed this will be the season!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Believe it or not, Lisa, I can actually feel the chill as I walk down to the barn to do my goat chores every morning. The lowland down by the pond (that’s the body of water you’re seeing in the picture) is actually a few degrees cooler than on the higher land. Frost can settle in low land. But it sounds as if you’ve got plenty of protection to prevent those variables (it’s actually a delight on hot, muggy midsummer nights and I’m thinking of putting a summer sleeping house down there). The tree peony story was phenomenal — like heaven. I’ll write up my favorite tree peony in a future post. Now you’re cookin’ = that wrought iron bust sounds really unique. How about morning glories climbing around her and nasturtiums flowing along the ground?

  2. Take a look at Magnolia ‘Yellow Bird’. I’ve only had it one year, but so far, I’m delighted. It bloomed for over 3 weeks. I think the last bloom is still hanging on.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Wow, Professor, I mean you have trumped me by a mile. Maybe more. Everyone take a walk over to Those green buds and that strong color have me drooling. ‘Goldfinch’ looks cream from a distance, as you can tell. Looks like yours reads as true yellow. The flowers have excellent form as well. As to all the “warnings” you found on other websites = I say thumb your nose at them. All my magnolias are cake walks. And the stellata cross is in a very challenging location due to poor, dry soil.

  3. Thanks for the referral Tovah! Yes, ‘Yellow Bird’ is bright canary yellow. For your visitors that want to see the bloom, the actual blog I wrote about her is at

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Check her out, everyone. Plus she comes with Professor Roush’s two thumbs up. You’re making my dream come true, Prof. This is what I’d envisioned for this blog = for gardeners to share their favorite plants and air their experiences in different regions throughout the country. Thank you!

  4. Maude Odgers says:

    Tovah, as for the deer problem and Magnolias I have been spraying “Liquid Fence” on mine in the spring and fall and it works. I’ve watched a deer actually approach it and turn away! In the spring they love to eat those furry buds right off. A heartbreaking sight especially if you have a spring that the frost hasn’t nipped them first. And for the record I’ve tried lots of deer repellents and Liquid Fence works the best for me. I buy it in concentrated form (expensive) but worth the money. It works on hostas, tulips and all my evergreens and Japanese maples that the deer love. The only catch is to remember to spray before the deer and woodchucks find your fresh greens and buds first! The other plus for it is that it’s organic (putrified eggs). The only negative is it smells horrid. But once it dries you don’t smell it but the deer and woodchucks do!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Really, really good advice, Maude. I use Liquid Fence on the garden because you can even spray veggies safely with it. But I hadn’t thought of it for the magnolia. Would be MUCH easier than building a barricade fence every autumn. Fortunately, a lot of the magnolia is out of deer reach now. And I also didn’t know that it worked for woodchucks. Hey, LONG ago I lost any hope of a fragrant garden. Somehow, the heliotrope and lilacs manage to throw their voices over the prevailing putrified eggs, though.

  5. Lisa from PA says:

    Thanks for the heads up on Liquid Fence for woodchucks, Maude. I gave up thinking there was nothing short of a nine-gauge to control them (I wouldn’t do that of course, but the frustration builds!). Their favorite…lupines! They eat them like lollypops! Just when they’re about to bloom. I will try anything, especially organic. Thank you!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      A triple thanks to Maude (who cares for public gardens as well as her own digs, by the way). But Lisa, just to throw this out to you = we just returned from Trade Secrets where they were selling Nite-Guard lights. It’s a flashing red light that supposedly deters critters. Friend of mine says it works. Only problem being that woodchucks are day eaters as well (I figure they eat their entire life away). So you’d need double protection…

  6. Maude Odgers says:

    Lisa, I’m totally with you on the nine-gauge and the frustration. Even though he/she has stopped eating my garden he/she is still perusing the property. So the trap is set. I agree with you Tovah that they eat their life away! Good luck! Oh, an you have to follow the directions on the spray. I think it’s every two weeks for a bit, then once a month, then less.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Oh…Directions? I’ve just been winging it with the spray and throwing it around about every week or so when the mood hit. Then whenever it rains heavily. Like whenever this deluge ends…Thanks for the heads up. I’m going to check out that fine print pronto.

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