Elizabeth trumps the competition

I first saw Elizabeth at Morris Arboretum many years ago. It nearly caused me to drive off the entrance road. Of course I'm talking about the spectacular yellow magnolia 'Elizabeth,' a hybrid developed by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden that combines an American and Asian species.

It's an exquisite pale yellow. The buds are large and full, upright and cup-shaped. The flower is slightly fragrant. In all, a magnificent magnolia that in my mind trumps just about all others - except maybe the swamp bay magnolia, which has the most delicious fruity scent and creamy blossoms.

Still, 'Elizabeth' has it all over the pink saucers and white stars you've been seeing for the last two weeks. It's the color, I guess. Yellow isn't that common in the garden, and the beauty of it sometimes startles - especially in early spring, on a windy, chilly day at High School Park in Elkins Park, where I visited today. This tree was at the back end of a meadow being restored there, which will be the topic of a story in Home & Design on April 6.