Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Magnolia Meltdown

Day 69
The Daily DuBrule

I can still remember sitting in the classroom at Rackliffe Hicks School of Agriculture back in the 70's. My professor of woody plants Mr. Bradley had dragged us all over campus, showing us a wide array of trees and shrubs. I was in heaven. I was a sponge, soaking up information and loving every minute. We were introduced to Magnolias, star and saucer. They were early spring blooming trees, so gorgeous and tropical looking. It was probably early April when I sat in the classroom and looked out the window at my new favorite tree, the saucer magnolia. The day before, it was stunning. I couldn't take my eyes off it. That fateful day, it was a mass of brown, mushy flowers. I was stunned. How was it possible that such a giant, magnificent tree could be frozen? It turns out that these early blooming Magnolias live life on the edge. 

This year, I could see it coming. Two to three weeks of insanely warm temperatures in March, unlike anything I have ever experienced in over 30 years of gardening. Plants have opened before my eyes that have no business blooming now. I knew it couldn't last. So it was with a sinking feeling that I heard the dire forecast for early this week and then felt the cold wind sink deep into my bones on Monday evening.

This morning, I got up to survey the damage. I walked up to my perennial Lathyrus vernus and touched its leaves. Brittle and crispy and frozen solid. I pulled my hand back. Man, if I am not careful, I will shatter this plant into tiny bits. It was 6:30 a.m., way too early to tell what had really happened.
Lathyrus vernus, spring vetchling, laughs at temps in the 20's!

Later this afternoon, as I drove home in the warmth of the sunshine, most of the plant world looked fine to me. But it was the Magnolias that had taken the hit. Giant gobs of brown flowers everywhere. So sad. When I stopped home for a pit stop before heading to Colchester to give a pruning talk, I quickly glanced around the yard. Wow. The Lathyrus was green and gorgeous. My weeping cherry tree was fine. All of the early spring blooming bulbs were happy as clams. I had survived this dip into the 20's pretty much unscathed. 

The magnolias along my route weren't so lucky. I still think it is worth it to own such beautiful, dramatic, early spring flowering trees. Each year its a risk. But when they are in bloom, nothing comes close to their beauty. 

1 comment:

  1. Driving north today, it was sad seeing all the magnolias that had been blasted. I snipped a few buds from mine ('Anticipation') - they weren't quite open yet, but were showing a lot of white on the buds on Monday - and put them in a glass (well, a brandy snifter, actually... the rim held them upright nicely) in my kitchen. Today they're open, and smell lovely. (Thanks for the idea - forget if it was from a blog entry or the newsletter.)

    (p.s. I'm such a Natureworks addict - submitted an application for the data entry position last night... :)