Michelias

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Named after the 17th century Italian botanist Pietro Antonio Micheli, michelias are a small genus of trees and shrubs from southern Asia and the foothills of the Himalayas. They belong to the Magnoliaceae family along with their close relatives the magnolias, but unlike magnolias, michelias are usually evergreen. The flowers of many species are highly fragrant, and their perfume is very noticeable at night.

The most commonly grown michelias in Australian gardens are Michelia figo, also known as the port-wine magnolia, and Michelia doltsopa with its large, sweetly scented white to cream flowers. In New Zealand these plants have been hybridised, and two wonderful new varieties are now available:

Michelia ‘Mixed Up Miss’

A large shrub which grows to about 3 metres (10′) tall. In mid to late winter buds are borne profusely along the stems, opening to cup shaped, fragrant white flowers with a pink blush on the edge of the petals.

Michelia ‘Bubbles’

Evergreen large shrub or small tree to 4 metres (13′) tall. ‘Bubbles’ has lovely dark green foliage and flowers that are whiter than ‘Mixed Up Miss’, but not as fragrant.

Best climate:

‘Mixed Up Miss’ and ‘Bubbles’ will grow well in most areas of Australia, except in inland and very hot tropical zones.

Good points:

hardy frost tolerant beautiful perfumed flowers in winter handsome dark green foliage

Uses:

specimen shrubs or small trees flowering hedges and screen plants perfumed garden

Downside:

These varieties are new and may be difficult to obtain.

Care:

Michelias prefer a sheltered, sunny position in well-drained, reasonably fertile soil. They will thrive in a position in full sun with protection from strong winds.

Getting started:

These plants will probably be difficult to find, especially in Tasmania, Perth and Brisbane. It may be necessary to place orders at your local nursery. Prices vary, but expect to pay around $24-$40 for 200mm (8″) pots. Larger sizes are also available.

Availability:

NSW

For Michelia ‘Mixed Up Miss’ and ‘Bubbles’ try:

Peakhurst Garden Centre, Peakhurst, phone: (02) 9533 4239 Gardens R Us, Kingsford, phone: (02) 9663 0701 Swane’s Nursery, Dural, phone: (02) 9651 1322

VIC

For Michelia ‘Mixed Up Miss’ try:

Poynton’s Nursery and Garden Centre, Essendon, phone: (03) 9337 8111 Cloudehill Nursery, Olinda, phone: (03) 9751 1009 Yamina Rare Plants, Monbulk, phone: (03) 9756 6335