This post, “Magnolia” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana
One of the signature plants of the deep South is the Magnolia grandiflora. This majestic, evergreen tree has large, glossy dark green leaves and huge, fragrant, white blossoms. Every thing about these trees is big. These trees are big – 60 to 90 feet, the flowers are big – 12 inches across, and the leaves are big – 8 inches long. The cones that come after have shiny, bright red seeds.
We did not plant our tree, previous owners did that for us. However, this giant of a tree must have room to grow, and the planters of our tree put it too close to the house. It does give us welcome shade in the summer, but there are problems with this magnolia.
Nothing grows under it. Shallow roots are exposed making it difficult to walk around this tree. As it grew larger and grass was dying out in an ever expanding area, I decided to make the entry garden. The shape of which was determined by magnolia shade and root area. So far things are working out well.
Another problem is the falling leaves. They are large, leathery and never seem to decompose. It seems as if things are falling out of this tree nine months of the year. First, it is the leaves. As new leaves come out in the spring, older leaves drop off. By the thousands. A mulching lawnmower takes care of the ones on the lawn, but in the garden where they cannot be raked, I have a stick with a nail on the end and pick each one up. Next, comes the thin outer sheath of the flowers. These will decompose rapidly, but still are unsightly on a newly mown lawn and freshly swept walkway. Lastly comes the cones. These are not large or spiny, but stepping on one is not pleasant.
So, with all the above negatives, why would anyone plant one of these trees? If they are planted as a specimen, free standing tree, there is nothing lovelier. The leaves tend to fall straight down around the trunk and would not have to be raked often. Several homes in our area have them planted out in the yard and never have the problems with debris like we do having it close to sidewalks. The showy, red seeds attract birds and are eaten by squirrels. This makes a wonderful shade tree planted in the right spot.
The flowers and large leaves are often used for seasonal decorations and floral arrangements here in the South. Either left their natural green or sprayed gold or silver, these leaves are used in door, mantel, and stairway swags. So while this can be a high maintenance tree, it is extensively planted for its large, saucer-shaped, fragrant flowers and large evergreen leaves. It can be grown to zone 7, and some new varieties are said to survive to zone 5. Low care is also another plus to this tree. No spraying or extensive pruning, etc. is needed.
This is the state tree of Louisiana and Mississippi, and throughout the South there are many people who find this evergreen tree to be very splendid tree indeed.