In 1981, Michel and Veronique Sallin had a dream to invest in Florida agriculture. After moving to the US from France, they eventually purchased a 260 acre citrus grove among the rolling hills in Lake County. After devastating freezes in the 80’s, the Sallins moved the citrus operation down south and diversified into containerized ornamental tree farming creating the company we know today as Cherrylake. What attracted the Sallins to this area of agriculture was the new technologies that were being tested and implemented in the field of ornamental horticulture, such as root manipulation and containerized growing.
In the farm’s early years, Michel, Veronique and their three children would collect magnolia seeds from neighbor’s yards in Clermont. “I remember stopping at people’s houses on the way back from church.” their youngest daughter, Chloe, reminisced. “And once my dad got permission from the homeowner, we would all hop out and collect seeds from their yard.” These seeds were cooled for several days in the family’s personal refrigerator. Although about 90% of Cherrylake’s ornamental tree production is propagated vegetatively from cuttings today, the industry had mostly propagated through seed in the past. At the start of their venture, the Sallins took special care in selecting only quality seeds from the largest, fullest and most beautiful magnolias to then grow in their greenhouses.
It was over 10 years later, in 1993, that Sallin identified a seedling magnolia with exceptional characteristics and began propagating it as a cultivar that would later be named Magnolia grandiflora ‘Miss Chloé ’.
The Miss Chloé Magnolia has many unique qualities that caused the mother tree to stand out from the rows of seedlings. It’s full, emerald green canopy with a unique, velvety brown underside is one of the first distinguishing features about it. It’s flowers are impressively large at 10 to 12 inches and have a unique clear pink stamen, differing from the deep burgundy stamen that is most commonly found in traditional magnolias. Displaying impressive fullness with a fast growth rate, the Miss Chloé Magnolia was noted to be a great addition to the Cherrylake family and landscapes throughout the Southeastern United States.
Naming such a tree was not an easy feat. It needed to be memorable, unique and descriptive. Sallin felt there was no better way to find such a name than by engaging the team that had been part of its discovery. A company wide contest was put in place for anybody and everybody to submit names for this new southern magnolia cultivar that would join the landscape market. It was the Cherrylake receptionist at the time, Marge, who suggested to name the tree after the Sallin’s youngest daughter, who was then 14, and today holds the title of Cherrylake’s Director of Marketing and Organizational Development. The team believed such a name would tie in well with the tradition of naming the southern magnolias after Southern Belles. And so, the ‘cltf1’ magnolia cultivar joined the ranks of other southern magnolias as Miss Chloé .
Today, the Miss Chloé Magnolia is propagated via vegetative cuttings taken from parent trees that are genetically identical to the tree that was selected in 1993. Cultivars have become the most popular choice for magnolias, as it allows for more consistency in growth and predictability of shape, form, and flowers. The industry has moved away from seedling magnolias, and nearly all tree farms grow a few different cultivars. With nearly all Magnolias being cultivars now, the opportunity to discover a new variety is limited.
In the past year alone, Cherrylake has rehomed nearly 14,000 Miss Chloé Magnolias from their Groveland location. “Throughout the years, the Miss Chloé magnolia has been used on many high profile projects, including the Dallas Texas Stadium, Leu Gardens and even throughout famous theme parks in Central Florida”, says Shane Pangle, Director of Sales at Cherrylake. From farm to community, these Magnolias serve a new purpose: to beautify landscape projects, shade brand new home developments, line walkways of community parks, and even add a little magic to some of the happiest theme parks on earth. If you’d like to know which tree was the tree that started it all, it’s impossible to know… but we’d like to think that it was the offspring from one of those local, neighborhood seeds that started the farm.