Magnolia grandiflora is a large evergreen tree with gorgeous glossy green leaves and large, white, cup-shaped flowers.
Flowering intermittently from June to November, the grandiflora is native to the southern United States, where it is known as the southern magnolia or bull bay due to its great size, with some specimens reaching over 30m high.
First introduced to the United Kingdom in 1726 by plant collector Mark Catesby, many of the original plants were destroyed in the great frost of 1739-40, which lasted for nearly two months. Luckily, this freak weather event killed off the weaker magnolias with the surviving plants suitable for the UK's climate.
The Galissoniere cultivar is named after Michel Rolland Barrin, Comte de la Galissonière an explorer who sent plants and seeds to the gardens of Versailles in the early 18th century. It is in many respects similar to the plants one can find growing naturally in the US, although is smaller, reaching just over 10m high. Little Gem, on the other hand, is a dwarf cultivar reaching about 5m and henceforth suitable for small gardens.