Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ is one of those multi-talented small trees, as good at providing shelter and privacy as it is at enhancing gardens, thanks to its handsome, upright habit, bold evergreen foliage and beautiful, fragrant, summer flowers. Although ‘Little Gem’ is a near relative of the very tall growing, evergreen Magnolia ferruginea, often a cherished tree of large gardens, this new variety is a much more compact grower. Even in small gardens it can be kept to a useful size with a little pruning.
A row of Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ on a boundary or beside a path makes a striking feature. If they are planted against a fence, or beside a path where shelter or privacy at the lower level is not a concern, there is the option of removing the lower branches and planting underneath with handsome, low growing plants. These could be natives noted for their foliage, such as the very adaptable and drought tolerant renga renga, Arthropodium cirratum, or silvery leafed Astelia ‘Silver Spears’ or finer foliaged, even more silvery Astelia banksii. If the lower branches of the Magnolia aren’t removed, these plants will make a handsome foreground planting.
Also great as a foreground, if the soil is good, are free flowering perennials. You might like to try a white and grey border against the deep green background, in which case there are some interesting plants to play with, such as white daylilies, Gaura ‘So White’, which flowers all summer, white shasta daisies such as the new variety ‘Highland Dream’, white bearded irises, cream and grey foliage Yucca ‘Ivory Towers’ which in addition to the bold foliage will have tall stemmed, dramatic spikes of white flowers after a few years, creamy coloured Alstroemeria ‘White Ice’, white lilies, and grey foliage ground covers such as Stachys byzantina.