Ginkgo ‘Majestic Butterflies’

Ginkgos have been among my favorite trees for as long as I can remember. However, since our lot is only 8,100 square feet, we simply don’t have the room for one, let alone several. In spite of that, I decided a few weeks ago to do a bit of research in order to see what wonderful ginkgo cultivars are out there. When I came across ‘Majestic Butterflies,’ I knew I had to have it.

Photo © Buchholz & Buchholz Nursery
Photo © Whitman Farms

‘Majestic Butterflies’ is a variegated mutation that Oregon nurseryman Crispin Silva of Creations Nursery found among a batch of ‘Jade Butterflies,’ a non-variegated dwarf cultivar originally from New Zealand. Unlike other variegated ginkgos discovered in the past, the variegation on ‘Majestic Butterflies’ is very stable and allegedly doesn’t fade in the summer. That is a huge plus for me because I don’t like it when a plant with beautiful variegation turns all green as the growing season progresses.

In addition, this cultivar is even slower growing than regular ginkgos, which makes it ideal for container cultivation, at least for a number of years. Its ultimate size is as yet unknown, but its parent ‘Jade Butterflies’ is supposed to grow to only 6 ft. in ten years. I believe the variegation will slow ‘Majestic Butterflies’ down even more.

The availability of ‘Majestic Butterflies’ is very limited, making it quite difficult to find. Through PlantScout on Dave’s Garden I was able to find a source: Whitman Farms in Salem, Oregon. Run by veteran nurserywoman Lucile Whitman, Whitman Farms specializes in rare and unusual trees and shrubs.

My ‘Majestic Butterflies’ arrived in record time, packaged very safely in an oversized box. I really appreciated the care and attention that went into this packaging; many mail-order operations are sorely lacking in that department. The tree itself is a small thing, about 10 inches tall in its 1-gallon container, but I’m not sure anybody sells larger specimens at the moment, seeing how recent an introduction this is.

My puny ‘Majestic Butterflies’

I was surprised to find what I think are leaf buds. I imagine that the tree will remain dormant through the winter, though, instead of starting to push new leaves now.

New leaf buds

Initially I was simply going to leave my ‘Majestic Butterflies’ in its 1-gallon nursery container until next year. Then, as I was exploring Whitman Farm’s web site in more detail, I discovered that Lucile Whitman grows most of her trees in the ground in root control bags. If you’re not familiar with the concept, check out the video below.

Years ago, when I was trying to grow hostas in our not-very-hosta-friendly climate, I had come across reports that claimed that growing hostas in root control bags turned inside out (so the side coated with root-repelling copper hydroxide covering is on the outside, halting the approach of the roots of trees or other plants that might be in competition for water and nutrition) would work miracles. I tried the bags on a few hostas and they ended up dying anyway, so I never used the remaining bags. (Selecting hosta cultivars bred from species native to warmer climates proved to be much more effective in ensuring survival.)

I therefore happened to have a few Tex-R Agroliner tree production bags on hand and I decided to put my ‘Majestic Butterflies’ in the ground for the winter and possibly for several years to speed it along a little. The bag will ensure that I will be able to easily lift the tree from the ground when it’s ready to be moved to a large container (or possibly even planted in the ground if I find a spot for it).

Tex-R Agroliner tree production bag. The non-woven fabric is laminated on the inside with a copper hydroxide covering which repels roots that come into contact with it. This stimulates the formation of a healthy fibrous root system inside the bag without roots circling around the perimeter of the root ball as they would in a container.

I dug a whole in a sunny corner of one of our raised vegetable beds and put the bag in the ground.


I filled the bag half-way with soil, added the ‘Majestic Butterflies’ (its root ball was very small, not even filling the 1-gallon pot), and added more soil until it was flush with the rest of the bed.


Finally I mulched with leaves (I didn’t have anything else on hand) to give the tree some protection from the elements. Considering that ginkgos are hardy to zone 3 that probably wasn’t necessary, but this small plant looked so forlorn, I decided to pamper it a little.

Now get growing, little one!!


For more information about Tex-R Agroliner tree production bags and the technology behind them, visit:


  1. It's a fabulous plant Gerhard, one of my favourites! I have several already and wouldn't mind picking up more even if they all have to be kept in pots :)

    I have one planted on the ground for a few years now and the growth rate of the variegated one is so slow, about 2'' a year, so I'm not too worried it would outgrow it's space for a very long time. I think it's a good choice for a small garden and can be trimmed compact too.

    Just keep an eye as not every year it comes back variegated, on rare occasions it has pure green leaves but the following year it's variegated again. A nurseryman warned me of this phenomenon and it actually happened to one of our specimens.

  2. I know you don't have deer, but do the rats ever nibble branches? If so, I'd cage that too.

    Thanks for the info on the growing bags, and using them inside-out to keep tree roots away. I'm going to check into this over the winter -- I'd love to give the hostas under my maple a chance!

  3. Mark, I seem to remember you had posted a photo of a variegated ginko on Alternative Eden once but I didn't know why cultivar it was. I'm very glad to know it's a Majestic Butterflies. So when you get all-green leaves, you don't remove them, you just wait for variegated leaves to return the following year? How tall are your specimens now?

    Alan, even though we live right on the edge of town, with open fields just 1/4 mile away, I've never seen a rabbit in our neighborhood. The only thing I've found nibbling on things are slugs and rats.

    Here is some info on using inside-out root control bags with hostas.

    Also try this Google search.

  4. Nice find! Mailorder is dangerous... You can go from learning about a new plant, to ordering A new plant, in your underwear at 1:00am in the morn.

    Really tho, so much fun, especially in the winter when options are at an all time low. I just got a package in the mail yesterday actually from sacred succulents. Made my day, to say the least.

  5. Yes I did, well remembered :) I don't remove the non variegated leaves, I just leave them and find that the following year the same branch will throw out variegated leaves again. What happens is that on rare occasions the entire plant throws out all green leaves, but just be patient as next year it will variegate again. It happened to one of our plants.

    The one planted out was 2.5' to start, been on the ground for four years now and it's only a bit over 3' now. Thankfully it seems quite slow :)

  6. That might be the most beautiful ginko I've ever seen!


  7. Tom, I agree! I can't wait for it to leaf out. A large specimen has got to be breathtaking.


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