05 March 2017

A Dwarf #Magnolia Verdant: #Gardening #GreenThumb #Southerners #Nostalgia #Gifts #WeatherGeek #BFF

I have a Dwarf Magnolia tree in my yard. It came to me as a dream almost. Several years ago, a friend and neighbor who loves gardening like I do, gifted me a distressed Dwarf Magnolia sapling that he'd inherited. (He actually got two, potted in too small containers and having been neglected on a patio for some time, both seen better days.) As he and I have had numerous conversations about our shared love of fragrant Magnolia blossoms, he said that he immediately thought of me when the two strays landed on his doorstep. He laughingly delivered it in a wheelbarrow. And so I set out to rescue the one, while he worked on saving the other. Being inveterate green thumbs and fellow small town Southerners transplanted to the metro Atlanta area, we often share seeds & plants --- and their associated bounty. This ritual is part of how we bonded as neighbors and became friends.

On the day my neighbor turned up with this temporarily homeless little tree, he pulled it from the battered pot, dug a hole and planted it in my yard. It's yours now! I grinned in response. Over the years, I've tended to it near religiously: first tying it upright with a lance, pruning it, watering it and talking to it good naturedly. I dubbed the pitiful sapling "Ms. Magnolia Blossom 1999" or "Mags" for short --- monikers that just popped into my head. And our girl Mags has thrived! Turning from brown and withered to green and redolent. It took some time, nearly a full year to undo the withering damage alone. After she started to stretch out and unfurl, Mags began producing lovely fragrant puffy white blossoms in season. This process took roughly two years of nursing and coaxing, but 'twas well worth all the effort. Because now, at roughly the five-year mark, I get all the benefits of having a thriving Magnolia tree in my yard --- in a (comparatively) compact space.

In case you're unaware or curious, a fully grown Magnolia tree can easily top 30 feet in height and take up a full yard between its meandering roots and wide ranging branches, but the dwarf varieties generally only grow about 8-15 feet tall and can be kept "straight and narrow" through careful pruning and shaping. The sad sapling that I was graciously gifted was about 3 feet tall at the time, but is now a roughly 8.5 foot tall tree, having grown nearly a foot a year.

I had to take special care of her with the extreme drought the area has been experiencing over the last year or so. I took to hand watering Mags to insure she continued to thrive in a suddenly fragile ecosystem. She's doing well! However, I keep a vigilant eye on her, because the current yo-yo Winter to Spring weather pattern has many trees and plants blooming too early. Yet, the temperature still dips down to freezing or thereabouts as it did yesterday morning. (The rainstorms last weekend provided plenty of moisture, which was followed by a few days of strong sunlight before this returned shot of Winter. Having been thus bolstered, I think she'll do OK.) On Friday afternoon, in spite of the blustery conditions due to the incoming cold front, Mags looked resplendent in the bright sun, unbowed and verdant. Quite the beauty queen.

I plan to get out this afternoon and check on her, again, just to shoot the breeze. I can't wait for actual Spring! The smell of Magnolia blossoms instantly transports me to a better place, rather like those Calgon commercials of old. The Magnolia tree is quintessentially Southern, of course, and intrinsically tied to the warm and sunny memories of my childhood. (When you have a hardscrabble youth, you're willing to work to keep the bright spots close in adulthood. It's called perspective.) This little tree has proven a most wonderful gift 🎁. I cannot thank my gardening buddy BFF enough for providing carriage for my trips to bountiful.

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