Hit the Bottle

Already a top-shelf destination for gorgeous imported pottery, Magnolia has been expanding its selection of container trimmings. Bottles—decorative mulches made from 100% recycled, tumbled bottle glass, that is.

Magnolia Gift and Garden

An eye-catching display on the nursery grounds featuring a river of azure and turquoise glass winding through a xeriscape of sedum was such a favorite with customers last year that our modest offering of colors and sizes was outstripped by demand. The nursery soon made full-fledged foray into decorative mulches, and now offers 15 different recycled glass options, 12 kinds of gravel and rock, and several unique choices of glazed pottery shards to add resilient, year-around color to any container garden or planting bed. Large glass nuggets also make striking filler for patio fire bowls, while finer mulches accent many of the fountain basins on the nursery grounds. Sustainable and beautiful, recycled glass provides extremely durable weed suppression and water retention, but has enough heft to reduce shifting or erosion by wind and water.

Magnolia Gift and Garden

A Magnolia exclusive, glazed pottery shards make a statement in containers and xeriscapes. Every lot is unique; you may choose from the intricate blue vines and brilliant blooms of a traditional Mexican fragment, or pieces of a drip-finished pot in rich caramel and umber. And if originality is your cup of tea, then you’ll find whimsical fodder for your creative instincts at our container-finishing station. A host of vintage action figures covering genres from Cowboys-and-Indians to Star Wars keep company with the ever-increasing variety of nostalgic treasures that capture nursery co-owner Chris Hunter’s imagination—a smile-inducing touch to any container garden.

Whatever your landscape style, whether you cultivate a sweeping estate or a cozy urban patio, we have what you need to finish your containers in style. So go ahead…hit the bottle.

Magnolia Gift and Garden

Magnolia Gift and Garden

A Touch of the Orient

Among the loveliest landscape specimens in old-town Chico, the Japanese Maple (Acer palmatumcvs.) has become an iconic Oriental accent. With slow, hardy growth and lacy foliage, this diverse species ranges from stooped, gnarled pondside specimens to upright trees perfectly scaled to the urban backyard. Long-lived, these are also invaluable in containers and shaded corners, requiring little pruning and providing brilliant Fall color (green varieties) as well as a striking architectural element in the winter garden. While most of the cultivars available need some shelter from the summer sun in the North Valley, there are several new varieties which tolerate longer exposure.

Emperor One Japanese Maple - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Since its inception, Magnolia has offered an extensive and unusual selection of Japanese Maples. One major division may be made between the many varieties that come through the nursery in a year. Laceleaf-type maples generally exhibit the distinctive mounding, trailing form as they age, and remain fairly small. These are especially well-suited to landscape mounds, rock gardens, water features and patios, where their weeping habit can be unhampered. The finely-cut leaves in shades of red, purple or green are quite sensitive to wind-burn or sun-burn, and the plant should be provided full afternoon shade during the growing season. Prune seldom and selectively—the natural grace of these trees is accentuated by their tiered branches as they mature. Provided well-drained soil rich in organic matter, the laceleaf-type maples require little fertilizer.

The other group of Japanese Maples are the broadleaf-type. These are generally upright, with strong, straight branching patterns, and develop rugged, wizened trunks as they age. These are preferred for small shade trees, not only for their accommodating growth habit, but also because they are considerably hardier to wind and sun stresses. Filtered to full afternoon shade is still recommended during the growing season, but two new cultivars have shown increased resilience under sun exposure. “Emporer One” is a full, vigorous red-leaved variety which has demonstrated the greatest tolerance of the maples with colored foliage.

Though traditionally associated with Oriental gardens, the plethora of modern cultivars has extended the Japanese Maple’s appeal to other landscape styles. Whether you keep a natural woodland garden, or a neatly manicured border of Gardenias and Hostas, these trees add enduring beauty, distinct structural elements and lovely texture to the yard or patio. During the whole month of May, a wide selection of five-gallon Japanese Maples will be on special, so don’t miss this opportunity to bring home a touch of the Orient.

Ace palmatum 'Garnet' Japanese Maples - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Monocot Madness: Grasses to Know and Love

Grasses - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Whether spilling from an urn or bordering a stone walk, fringing a shaded pond or covering a sunny hillside, there are few plants in the garden that impart the sense of grace or the fluid motion of ornamental grasses. Their fine, linear structure makes an effective foil to coarser-leaved shrubs or perennials, and adds three-season visual interest. Striking in a mass planting, eye-catching as a specimen, these cultivated monocots are surprisingly low maintenance. Offering growth habits and colors aplenty, handling exposures from full sun to full shade, and tolerating a range of irrigation regimes, there is undoubtedly a long-leafed beauty prepared to infuse your yard with dynamic texture.

Grasses - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Black Mondo Grass - Magnolia Gift and Garden
A Magnolia favorite, Black Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) is one of the unsung wonders of the Northern California garden. The sun-shunning foliage lives up to its name, maturing to a deep black, highlighted by lime-colored new growth. This clumping evergreen will reach some 12” high and wide, and is reliably cold-hardy. Diminutive pale pink flowers, followed by striking black berries, emerge in early summer. Provide regular water during the warm seasons.

chondropetalum tectorum

The Cape Rush (Chondropetalum tectorum) forms a dense clump of reed-like stems about 4-5’ high and wide. The strongly vertical growth bears branched leaflets at the joints, lending a prehistoric air to this shade-dweller. Especially striking in aquatic settings, this false rush nonetheless requires very little water once it is established.

Fubuki Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra FUBUKI ‘Briform’) is a descriptive moniker—the first word translates “snow storm,” which is easily envisioned when admiring the white-striped foliage of this cascading shade perennial. Come fall, the creamy bands color up to a soft pink. More compact than the species, Fubuki will spread to roughly 16”, and not quite as tall. Ensure that this one has moist, well-drained soil for superb performance.

Heat- and drought-tolerant, Orange Sedge (Carex testacea ‘Orange Sedge’) is one of the best choices for a tough and nearly maintenance-free mass planting. New growth emerges a golden-green, turning orange in Autumn, and a toffee color over the winter. Mow this one before spring to rejuvenate the growth, or just let the new shoots infiltrate the bronzy clump, which will reach roughly 2’. In time, it creates soft hassocks of threadlike leaves that curl down to the ground.

Red Fountain Grass
Red Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) remains one of the loveliest perennial grasses, with tan and purple plumes swaying above rich red foliage in a 5’ clump. Once established, it demands little water. Though this graceful specimen does occasionally succumb to winter-cold in the North Valley, it is worth the risk. A green-leaved cultivar—‘Ruppelii’—is also available, displaying straw-colored seed plumes brushed with a deep rose.


Valued for its round, pincushion form, Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrihon sempervirens) is semi-evergreen in our region. The steel-blue clump will reach some 2-3’ at maturity, and prominently displays golden plumes over the erect foliage in spring. Moderate water over summer will keep this one looking great. It should not be overlooked as a container subject; the bold texture and silvery tones make an architectural statement in any setting.

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Flowering Maple Shines

Flowering Maple - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Shade has met its match. The brilliant array of bloom colors, fantastic foliage and superb performance that have earned the Flowering Maple (Abutilon hybrids) a prominent position in our inventory brighten dim corners, treed borders and containers year-around. Evergreen and cold-hardy in Chico, this plant will take morning sun, filtered light or shade in stride, producing a plethora of pendent bell-shaped flowers from spring through fall. Hummingbirds find the vibrant cups irresistible, and humans are similarly drawn to their Crayola-rivaling spectrum of hues—white, yellow, gold and palest pink through oranges and deep reds. The leaves deserve the plant’s common moniker, as most display five toothed lobes, distinctly resembling the Acer genus. Given good drainage and regular water, Abutilon becomes a small to large shrub at maturity, depending on the cultivar. For best structure, staking is required in taller specimens, and periodically pinching the growth tips will encourage a denser, bushier habit in plants of any size. Though myriad cultivars are available, displaying astounding variety in bloom shape and color, leaf texture and pattern, here are a handful of our favorites.

‘Apricot’—Aptly named, the peachy petals of this selection form an open bell shape, highlighted by muted red sepals. One of Chris’ picks, it is a prolific bloomer, and will reach some 6’ high at maturity.

‘Cristina’—My newest fetish, this lovely strain sports fiery tangerine blooms with slightly fluted petals. One of the more compact varieties, expect a bushy plant in the 3-4’ range.

‘Mobile Pink’—Courtney, our resident Abutilon expert, adores this one. Out of her extensive collection, she claims this is the most robust and floriferous. Growing roughly 3′ high and wide, it displays pale pink flowers with an umbrella-like form and lustrous petals.

‘Nabob’—One of the taller cultivars, at around 10’ unpruned, this is undeniably among the most striking bloomers of the bunch. It produces large, strongly cupped flowers in some shade between blood red and wine, primarily in spring and fall.

‘Tiger Eye’—Less prolific than some of the varieties named above, but definitely worth the wait; golden bells with red-orange veins and protruding red stamens add an exotic flair to the garden. The leaves are similarly tropical in appearance; deeply lobed, glossy and dark green. A larger plant, it may reach 10’ in time.

‘Victory’—Irresistibly cheery, the dainty golden flowers have fluted petals that seem to swirl out of a burnished orange calyx. The plant is densely clothed in small, felted leaves, belying a rather vigorous growth habit that can result in 10-12’ stature when mature.

Whether you seek a punch of color or cool whites and creamy yellows, velvety green foliage or dappled gold, look no further. The Flowering Maple is the go-to perennial for shade performance. The nursery is flush with these vibrant beauties right now, but they won’t last long.

Garden Whimsy

Succulent Dinosaurus Planter - Magnolia Gift and Garden

It all started with a plastic dinosaur. Anyone who knows Magnolia’s co-owner, Chris Hunter, understands that he can be a bit… shall we say, obsessive?—when it comes to gardening. While making deliveries one day, he happened upon said children’s toy, transformed into a grin-inducing fountain for a small pond. And it inspired him. Well known for his striking custom container arrangements, which can be found throughout the nursery, he unleashed his eccentric creativity in the greenhouse.

You may have never imagined how charming a miniature scene of Yoda tending Sedum would be or C-3PO and R2-D2 traversing an arid landscape of crumbling stone and Echeveria, or Darth Maul rising from a glowing cauldron against a clump of Black Mondo Grass. A delightful living gift for gardeners of all ages, our whimsical container-scapes are created individually using beautiful glazed pottery, recycled glass or natural rock, one or more vintage figurines and a variety of flora, ranging from exotic Amorphophallus to succulent dwarf Agave. Suitable for indoor or outdoor settings, these tasteful plantings are guaranteed to brighten your day and be the envy of family, friends and colleagues!

Magnolia Gift and Garden

MIni Gardens - Magnolia Gift and Garden

Barbie Planter - Magnolia Gift and Garden

The whole collection will make the jump into hyperspace. If you can’t seem to find your favorite character on display, just ask. Because around here, it is considered a tenet of horticultural practice that gardening should be fun, and these container scenes are sure to bring out a little of the child in all of us. So transport your patio, home or office to a time long ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

May the Force be with you.