A magnolia tree lives at the foot of my front yard as it gently slopes toward the street. One can’t see it from the road; in fact, it’s barely noticeable from my front door. Maggie — that’s her name — is only about two feet tall. But she’s beautiful, and she’s definitely a magnolia and proud of it. Today, in the middle of January, she displays four clusters of healthy, waxy dark green leaves. A few months ago, she presented a single, white blossom. Gorgeous.
Maggie started out much taller than this when she first joined a row of pine trees lining the foot of our yard. She was planted there by a landscape professional in the distant past, probably 15 years ago, at least. A harsh ice storm one winter snapped off most of her beautiful limbs, leaving a ground-hugging cluster of those rich green almond-shaped leaves. She hasn’t grown much taller in all this time, and if she hasn’t done so by now, I don’t expect her to.
Folks associate magnolia trees with the South for good reason. They thrive in our warm climate. They are the state flower of both Louisiana and Mississippi. Magnolia trees can grow to 80 feet tall and spread as much as 40 feet wide. One can find glorious examples on the beautiful Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina, the oldest state University on the nation. Southern magnolias are known for their dramatic branches and pyramid shape. Large blooms in late spring give way to cone-shaped, fuzzy fruits.
They need little care, a blessing for neglectful gardeners like me. They resist pests and diseases, tolerate Southern summers, and provide beauty the year-around. Like Maggie. And they love life, like Maggie.
Resolute Maggie won’t make it to 80 feet in what remains of my lifetime, but I love her for her beauty and for what she has taught me about life.