I’m happy to report that I live an uneventful life, perhaps boring by most standards. I’m not a hermit, but I don’t care to travel, and I visit friends and relations too infrequently. I’m quite content to spend my days planting, keeping up with pruning and weeding, or lounging about enjoying the buds and blooms, the bees, birds, and butterflies that happen through the garden.
I’m not fearful of the world that lurks beyond the garden’s boundaries, but as I grow older I increasingly find solace in early spring blooms, the incessant chirping of spring peepers on March evenings, and the sounds of water tumbling over a boulder into a deep pond. I will spend the better part of an afternoon stretched out beneath the edgeworthias, marveling at the yellow tipped, white tubular blooms, or sitting on a boulder with my feet dangling into the pond, mesmerized by the crashing waterfall and dragonflies as they dart to and fro.
On a warm spring afternoon there is no better place, and whether I’m scurrying from one task to another, or snoozing at pond’s edge, this is where I’m happiest. Not to say that nothing bad happens in the garden. At the moment the tops of two or three of the tall cyryptomerias are broken and hanging at an odd angle, but they are beyond my reach to prune, and in any case, the deed is done and there’s not a thing I can do to bring them back. I have not yet figured what to do with them, but with a bit of time they’re likely to break loose and fall on their own, so why be needlessly bothered?
Along the wooded southern border broken branches litter the ground, and certainly I’ll be picking up a few at a time for months. My wife informed me yesterday that the rear garden is a dreadful mess, and that the old garden cart that sits rusting under the fringetree must be hauled to the dump. Sooner rather than later, I’m told, but perhaps it will rust quickly enough to be broken into pieces that will fit into the trash can. Probably not.
Fortunately, there’s far more that’s wonderful, and this afternoon the bothers of the garden are barely a nuisance. From a distance, or close up, the blooms of the deciduous magnolias are delightful, though not fragrant in the manner of the Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) and the great evergreen southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora). Merrill’s magnolia (Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’, above) is a cross between kobus and stellata magnolias, with a rapid, upright growth habit, and with petals that are more broad than the more common Star magnolias.
‘Merrill’ was more common years ago when this one was planted, and I don’t know why it is not found more commonly today. It is an exceptional tree, superb even in comparison to other beautiful magnolias.
Star magnolias (Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’, above) are almost shrub-like, wider than tall, with narrow, strap-like petals. In my garden both are perched at the forest’s edge, ‘Merrill’ standing upright and tall while ‘Royal Star’ squats beneath the low arching branches of a native red maple. ‘Jane’ (below), a cross from stellata and liliiflora, has overwhelmed smaller shrubs along the driveway, spreading to nearly twenty feet with low hanging branches, but just far enough from the drive that it requires only occasional pruning.
The latest of the deciduous magnolia to bloom in this garden is the pale yellow flowering ‘Elizabeth’ (below), which will flower late in the month with the dogwoods. Its habit is similar to the upright ‘Merrill’, and it grows quite quickly, though it is situated so that it gets sun only the first half of the day. The deciduous magnolias seem forgiving of most circumstances, and thrive despite a spot that is a bit too shady, or too dry. The spring blooms reassure the gardener that they are happy to be here, just like me.