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Little Gem Magnolia Wins Medallion Award
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The Little Gem southern magnolia has been chosen as a 1997 Mississippi Medallion award winner. This is the first woody ornamental to win the award.
This southern magnolia will fit into almost any landscape and bloom continuously throughout the growing season. The southern magnolia is one of the South's prized trees, but they are very large. The National Champion is in Mississippi and is more than 122 feet tall and has a crown width of 63 feet.
The Mississippi Medallion awards program was begun in 1996 to recognize plants that perform well in the state. The program is sponsored by the Mississippi State University Extension Service, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, Mississippi Nurserymen's Association and the Mississippi Plant Selections Committee.
Mississippi State University has been involved in the propagation techniques, evaluation and testing the Little Gem. While the Little Gem is a southern magnolia, it only reaches 21 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Its diminutive size makes it suitable for large containers. It can be trained as a hedge or for a specific location.
The Little Gem magnolia would be a great choice for celebrating Arbor Day on Feb. 14. They are available at nurseries and garden centers in various sizes, one of which is sure to fit your budget.
Choose a planting site in full sun, and dig the hole about twice as large as the root ball. It is very important not to plant your tree too deep. Extra soil on top of the root ball would reduce the oxygen and water getting to the roots. Only mulch should be put on top of the root ball.
To simplify the digging process, use a shovel handle to measure for depth. Turn the shovel upside down and mark the height of the root ball on the handle. Compare this with the depth of the planting hole as you dig. When they are the same height, you have reached the right depth.
The planting hole should be at least 2 to 3 times wider than the diameter of the root ball. Measure the diameter of the root ball and multiply that number by 2 or 3. The wider the hole, the better because the more loosened soil there is, the better and faster the roots will grow.
Carefully remove the Little Gem from the container and place it in the center of the hole.
The soil you dug out of the hole is called backfill. Put some backfill in the bottom half of the hole around the tree. Use your hands to gently press the soil down. Then add more soil to fill up the rest of the hole.
Firmly press the soil down again with your hands. You can finish settling the soil in the hole by turning on the hose and pushing it in and out of the backfill soil around the tree. Add more soil if settling occurs.
When you are finished, there will be some backfill left over from the hole. Use your hands to make a 3-inch high mound (berm) around the edge of the root ball with the remaining backfill. When you water the tree, the berm will help get the water to the root ball. Be sure and add a good layer of mulch like pine bark or straw.
If you want a superior, long-living tree and you love the ambiance of the southern magnolia, then look for the 1997 Mississippi Medallion winner, the Little Gem magnolia.