Pink, purple and white deciduous magnolias are blooming all over the city, but none sizzle against a dark spring sky like one of the yellow-blooming varieties. The butter yellow M. x 'Elizabeth', the later blooming 'Yellow Bird' and more finely cut 'Butterflies' are a reminder of how few trees have yellow flowers.
Magnolia x 'Elizabeth' (below) is in full and glorious bloom this week in Seattle; its a cross between M. acuminata and M. denudata discovered at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Its flowers sit upright on the branches like fat, glossy cups, then open wide to show a flush of rich yellow, spidery stamens.The fragrant, silky petals are a visceral contrast to the furry gray buds and bare, spreading branches, which will soon enough be covered with large, soft green leaves.
Give magnolias regular water and little or no pruning; these iconic Southern beauties are the most brazenly showy of spring-bloomers, yet tough enough to hold their own as urban street trees.