If you are a good gardener you will always have your eyes and ears open for new and interesting plants that can make your garden a better place, so, without further ado, let me then introduce you to Michelia doltsopa. This evergreen shrub is easy to grow, and presents pristine, highly scented flowers in late April and early May. It is criminally under-used in gardens despite being available quite easily.
Magnolia and Michelia have a special place in my heart, apart from being part of one of the oldest plant families in an evolutionary sense they are also very interesting because there are so many great plants from these two families that we can use in our gardens. Michelia are closely related to the Magnolia family and share many of their characteristics but the biggest difference is that Michelia nearly always flower in clusters along the branches with Magnolias flowering at the tip of the branch. There are over 45 species in the Michelia family but the best is by far Michelia doltsopa
‘Silver Cloud’. In this cultivar the leaves present a lovely chestnut underside colour with a silver sheen and the flowers are waxy, solid and highly fragrant. The Michaelia family is named after Pietro Antonio Micheli an Italian botanist from the 17th century. Most Michelia come from the Himalayas hence its common name of Himalayan Evergreen Magnolia.
Anyone who has grown this shrub will concur that is has an otherworldliness about it that is very endearing. The flowers look like they are made of glossy porcelain, the leaves, unusually glossy and perfect. This is a top rate plant for your garden whether you live in the city or countryside. In the wild it grows on forest edges and on hillsides in India and Tibet.
I have used this plant in several gardens including my own and have found it to be fantastically good, dependable, easy to grow and trouble-free. It flowers when quite young so a plant that is in the ground only a year or two will possibly flower. It is always best to position this plant with a little shelter, maybe with a wall or other taller shrubs behind. It is not a plant for a pot because it really does not like to dry out and it really does not like windswept or exposed conditions – a quiet garden corner in full sun is ideal.
Michelia doltsopa contributes a lot to the garden especially in late April and May when a lot of other flowering shrubs are also providing interest, it is easily planted around as it is slim in habit and not at all bulky. Once out of flower it requires no special care, maybe a light feed of fertiliser once a year and a tidy up of fallen leaves.
Eventual height can be up to 15 metres by about 8 metres wide but it is slow growing so temper your expectations! Having grown a lot of shrubs in my garden this always makes my top ten, so if you have not yet had the chance to grow it maybe let this be the start of your search. Final tip – try to grow it where you can appreciate the scent – it has a very distinctive, lemony, pungent scent that really travels and it’s always a pity to miss such an important part of the show.