I Love This Plant
Leaves Bigger Than Your Head
By Jon Carloftis, Principal Designer at Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens Iin Lexington, Kentucky, as told to Thad Orr
Excerpt from Garden Design Magazine – Autumn 2017
My family bought 50 acres along Rockcastle River in Kentucky back in 1955. This is where I grew up. The Daniel Boone National Forest was my backyard, and our closest neighbors were 4 miles one direction and 2 miles the other. My childhood was wild—my brothers and sisters and I spent a lot of time in the woods exploring. I remember being mesmerized by a tree that grew in the shady forests there. It had enormous leaves that would reach 2 or 3 feet long. We’d use the leaves as body armor and pretend we were Cleopatra’s henchmen.
Later, I found out this tree was Magnolia macrophylla. It’s still my favorite tree. It’s native to North America, has large creamy white flowers in summer, and in fall it gets these reddish orange conelike fruits that look prehistoric. I’d plant it just for the leaves but it has all these other wonderful qualities, too.