Each spring the first Magnolia to flower is Magnolia campbelli. It is a stately tree suitable for slightly larger gardens and well worth growing. This deciduous Himalayan species eventually grows 24 m tall with a 12 m wide crown in the right conditions and there are few this size in NZ, usually they are a lot smaller. Its slightly fragrant flowers grow up to 25cm in diameter and appear on leafless branches from late winter to mid-spring.
Plants raised from seed may take from 6 – 20 years to flower. However those available in nurseries are usually grafted so they flower earlier. It is reliably hardy. Today there are some really good NZ raised cultivars and hybrids to choose from. ‘Alba’ has pure white flowers; ‘Charles Raffill’ is white and rose purple; ‘Lanarth’ is a deeper rose purple and ‘Vulcan’ with dark red flowers.