Post last updated: November 4th, 2018
The romance novel, Gone With The Wind, brings to mind fair maidens swooning under the magnolia tree. If you need to get your swoon on for dramatic effect, we have the obligatory Southern Magnolia, magnolia grandiflora, in our front yard. Described as “beloved by gardeners,” I want you to know that’s a lie. Here are my issues with the most famous of all the swooner trees:
1. It’s big. Really big. The worst of the land hogs. They typically grow 60 to 80 feet but some of the over-achievers reach for 100 feet.
2. It’s a landscaping nightmare. The “beloved,” including my own Momma, tend to plop the tree in the middle of the yard which, forgive me, is the worst possible landscape design. Yes, it makes a statement but what do you do with the rest of the yard around it? I’ll tell you. The beloved make a round flower bed under the tree and never give it another thought. The tree grows huge, as they tend to do, the flower bed is never enlarged and what happens? A big fat tree that looks like it’s tottering in shoes five times too small for it. Seriously, don’t make me whip out my shovel and bop you upside the head for committing such a grievance. Go to the library and get some landscaping books. You don’t have to read them, just look at the photos. You’ll notice landscape designers plant trees near the property line in gently curving flower beds that flow across the front of the house.
3. It sheds. Yes, Scarlett, those glossy green leaves turn brown, fall off the tree and litter the yard. Worse yet, they don’t look like they would ever break down in your compost pile so I tend to shove them out the front gate and let the garbage men figure out what to do with them. They also shed 2 to 4 inch tough seed pods full of red seeds. This makes the Southern Magnolia worse than a two-year old. At least with the toddler you can screech, “Pick up your toys!” Just try getting that magnolia tree, a maple tree, or a sweet gum tree to pick up after itself.
If you simply must have a Southern Magnolia tree for Rhett and Scarlett, do not cut the lower limbs off. Allow those limbs to dangle all the way to the ground like this:
Those lower limbs help hide the brown leaves thus allowing you to avoid raking them. The photo that follows shows the same tree with the brown leaves hiding beneath it.
I would recommend keeping swooner trees to a minimum but the Southern Magnolia does have one redeeming feature: a scented bloom with petals of velvet.