The Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay, New York was once a sprawling estate. The property was designed and constructed during the teens and twenties, an era when this part of Long Island's north shore was known as the Gold Coast due to its wealthy homeowners. Planting Fields was originally owned by the Coe family, who contracted such well-known landscape architects as the Olmsted Brothers to design the property. A state park since 1949, the arboretum comprises more than four hundred varieties of trees and plants on its 409 acres.
One of the most magnificent sights at Planting Fields is the springtime view across the Great Lawn, which is adorned with airy, pastel magnolia blooms -- about seventy-five different varieties -- which bloom primarily in the last two weeks of April. Vincent Simeone, assistant director of Planting Fields, discusses several types of magnolia and demonstrates how cuttings can be beautifully arranged to bring these sweet-smelling spring blooms indoors. Martha and Vincent begin with several magnolia varieties using a flower frog in the base of a large container to hold them in place. It is important to cut magnolias near a growing point and to cut on an angle to allow the stem to absorb as much water as possible. Look for long branches, and always cut the magnolia when it is at an early stage, just before the blooms open. When placed in a cool room, the flowers last as long as a week.
Saucer-shaped magnolia; most commonly known variety
Star-shaped magnolia; originated in Japan and first brought to America in the eighteenth century
An early star-shaped hybrid; named after the director of the Arnold Arboretum
A yellow-flowered magnolia that was hybridized in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the 1970s; a later bloomer than many other varieties, rarely falling victim to frost
M. 'Leonard Messel'
A hybrid with pink, starlike flowers
M. 'Jane,' 'Ann,' and 'Susan'
Examples of "little-girl hybrids" introduced by the National Arboretum; smaller varieties are ideal for homeowners and smaller landscapes
M. 'Wada's Memory'
White bloom; early flowering pyramidal tree
Southern magnolia; large, fragrant white blooms; evergreen leaves; blooms in early June
Learn more about Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park.