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Pruning Magnolia and Beech Tree

Two pictures, one is a Magnolia and one we think is a Beech Tree.  How do you think we should prune these two plants? We are assuming this is the correct time to prune as they are both dormant.  We have had the Magnolia for approx 7 years but as you can see it hasn't grown very tall, in fact it looks a bit pathetic but it does produce approx 6 flowers each year.  The Beech Tree (two pictures) is approx 15 years old and is  10 - 15 foot tall. Thanks..imageimageimage

Last edited: 11 November 2017 16:56:06


  • Magnolias generally don't much like being pruned, so it is only worth doing if a tree really needs reducing in size. They can be slow to get going, yours looks as if it may be a M. stellata, which is more like a shrub than a tree. My stellata isn't very big either, but it has a lot more than 6 flower buds each year, though they don't all make it to flowers if the weather is against them. I'm wondering if yours is a bit shaded there?

    I'm inclined to think your other tree may be a Hornbeam rather than a beech, but I can't get a really clear image. The leaves don't look quite as hard and glossy as a beech and the colouring is less vivid.

    Either way though, unless you want to lose a lot of lawn,  it would be a good idea to remove one or two of the lowest branches each year until you have gained a decent height  of clear trunk and then you can let it do its own thing if it is beech or if you choose to, keep it more clipped if it is Hornbeam.

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,611

    I think your magnolia could do with a feed of blood, fish and bone and a generous mulch of ericaceous compost after you've had some good rain and cleared any weeds from its base.  Be careful not to bury those bulbs tho and maybe think about moving the other plants to another bed so you can do a decent layer.

    I agree the beech looks more like a hornbeam and that the best way to tackle it is to remove lower branches to shoulder or head height to make it easier to get round with a mower.  As with the magnolia, I'd clear a circle of soil round the base to reduce competition form the grass and other plants and give it a good mulch of well rotted garden compost after decent rain so you don't lock in dryness.   Come spring you could give it a mulch of chipped bark to keep it looking smart and weed free.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Thanks for the input Buttercup & Obelixx, and I am working on your ideas for the Magnolia, planning at the mo until I get outside tomorrow to lay a thick mulch after feeding and watering.  I managed to take a look at the Magnolia label (not much of it left as it was brittle and had mostly snapped.  However what it did say was part sun part shade and grows up to 2 metres tall, so not exactly a tree - a large shrub.  I thought all Magnolias were trees, so this has proved me wrong.  The name had been broken off the label.

    The tree, I have taken a picture of the leaves, do you still think it is a Hornbeam? Leaves to follow.

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,611

    What are the flowers like on the magnolia?  If they're white and open it's probably Stellata as B'cup suggested.  If pink, it may be one of the ones listed in this article -

    Magnolias don't much like being pruned and it has to be done at the correct time of year.  See what the RHS has to say lower down on this page -

    As for the other, I don't think it matters if it's beech or hornbeam.  The advice would be the same.  The main difference between them is that beech like light soils that don't get waterlogged and hornbeam can cope with heavy, wetter soils so that would influence planting choice if buying a new one or planning a hedge..

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • You are right Obelixx, it doesn't matter which tree it is, although I think we  decided that it was a beech tree in the end.  Regardless of name, the tree needed some urgent attention to help it mature and grow into a tall, upright and attractive tree.  So today we pruned some of the lower branches, fed and watered it, gave it a dressing of peat, top soil and horse manure. How does it look now?imageimage

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,611

    Much better GD but I would make that base circle wider.  Tree roots spread as far as the canopy edge so I would double the size of your circle and mulch with weed suppressing compost or bark but no more feed now till spring.  Next autumn, after leaf fall, I would take off another layer of lower branches so you can walk thru and mow without getting your eyes poked out.   More light for the grass below too.

    Good mix of shrubs and trees in there.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Yes, it does look much better, although we did find approx. 20 bulbs planted within the circle, so have left them there for now, as they had already sprouted through the soil. The blood, fish and bone that we were going to use around the trees suggested it to be used from Feb - April, a spring feed, so that is what we will do for all the established trees and shrubs Obelixx.  I did wonder about taking more branches from the lower trunk, but felt that we had done enough for now, but may do the same again next Autumn.  Thanks for your expert advice.

    I am a little disappointed with the magnolia though.  I just cut off any shoots and branches that were slimmer than a pencil, it hasn't taken as well as we had hoped.  A pity as I love magnolia, but as you say we do have some other lovely plants in our garden including 4 established camellias and a Chilean Pine.

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 27,611

    Bulbs coming up thru a mulch will look lovely and not compete too much.   

    Magnolia don't like being pruned so I think patience and a generous spring feed are called for.   Don't let it get thirsty in high summer and it should do well for you.   I have one that was in such a sorry state when we arrived last October that I weeded under it and gave it a very good drink and a whole bag of ericaceous compost as a mulch.

    Come spring, we had a fabulous display of deep purpley pink tulip shaped flowers.   I've kept on watering it thru this drought and I can now see buds forming for next spring but there has been no growth to speak of.  That's fine by me as long as it stays alive till we get some real rain.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • I PROMISE to give it extras, food and water in the Spring, although like yours our Magnolia has already formed buds for next year, so we may already be too late, but we will build it up (nourish) and perhaps in 2019 we will be rewarded, Obelixx. However I do think it is a bit pathetic - not up to standard.

    I often think living on an island means we get the rubbish sent over here sometimes - food as well as plants.....

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