The Magnolia Watch

A saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana) dominates my front yard. In mid-spring, it bears fragrant, saucer-shaped white flowers from 4 to 6 inches across flushed with pink or violet. Thirty feet high and close to that wide, it can be a hard tree to live with. It sheds small branches thoughout the year and casts a dense shade that little will grow in. When the buds open, their fuzzy sheaths litter the ground.

Thick leathery leaves turn a dull unattractive brown in fall and are hard to rake and slow to compost. Most importantly the flowers are frequently browned by early Spring frosts and freezes or frozen on the stems by late snows, rendering the flower display either very short or non-existent.

Even with all those difficulties, I would not eliminate it from my garden because in those years when the weather cooperates it is glorious in bloom.

So every year around this time, my wife and I keep one eye on the weather forecast and the other on the magnolia buds.

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Getting Closer

Well, a few days of higher temperatures and a bit of sun make a big difference in your outlook at this time of the year. Of course, opening day of the baseball season and a few straight weekends of Kentucky Derby prep races doesn’t hurt either.

The dry days gave me a chance to get out and prune some shrubs back, loosen up some mulch, and chop down the ornamental grasses. The ground has that spongy spring squish to it, so most other spring tasks will have to wait. The three fine days were followed by three of fog, drizzle and day long dusk. So once again I am reduced to playing around with lettuce seedlings in the basement and the sunroom. That is beginning to get old.

For something new, the Iris reticulata poked through this week.

Waiting on warmer weather.

There must be something wrong with my calendar. March and February have switched positions, at least weatherwise. The past week daytime temperatures barely crept above freezing. My plans for some early pruning have been pushed back. My to-do list looks like a departure list at an east coast airport, everything cancelled. I am not a winter gardener.

There have been a few jobs I got out of the way. The tools are sharpened, their handles sanded and oiled. In the basement some early vegetable seedings, mostly lettuce, have sprouted.

Once they get large enough they will go into pots, spend a couple of weeks in the sunroom then go out to the deck. Due to the local population of rabbits and rodents most of my leafy vedge is grown in containers on the deck but even there, raised up on benches, I have to cover the pots with chicken wire as the ground hogs have been known to stand on their back feet and pull themselves up to the salad bar.

The forecast is for a slight warm up this weekend. Forty degrees is my minimum temperature for working in the yard, so I might get working on that to do list.