We’d wager that Sweet Bay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) isn’t at the top of your plant lists, but it is one you’d love to use if you could, right? The silver-backed, semi-evergreen leaves, the white, lemon-scented flowers and, the fact that it’s a graceful and native tree make it A+. But they are site specific needing acid soils, a moist site and partial shade to be happiest. One caveat however: if planted in the northern areas of zone 5, you can almost count on winter damage. But ‘Sweet Thing’ (M. virginiana. var. australis ) is a little different. It’s described from the grower as a tough zone 5 plant with roots that tolerated minus 10ºF when over-wintered in containers without missing a beat. Second to the hardiness is its habit. The shrubby form, along with the compact size ( 8′ in 14 years) lends it to multiple uses like foundation plantings, mixed borders, patio plantings, containers, and hedging. Just remember the planting requirements – moist, acidic soil and partial sun. Available in 10 gallon containers along with some larger sizes.
Choose companions plants that want like conditions such as: Azalea viscosum ‘Pink & Sweet’, Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), Swamp Sweetbells (Eubotrys racemosa formerly Leucothoe racemosa), Foamy Bells (Heucherella) ‘Sweet Tea’, Hosta ‘So Sweet’, Virginia Sweetspire (Itea) and Sweetgale (Myrica gale). That’ll be one sweet garden…!