March 10, 2009

Amidst the magnolia trees

Amidst the magnolia trees

The long driveway onto the Southern Monastery land was lined on both sides with magnolia trees. They weren't flowering -- I don't think I've ever actually seen a magnolia tree in bloom -- but I loved the thick green leaves, and the shapes they made against the sky. Some of the trees had branches that hung down low, and I could stand against the trunk and feel hidden. What wonderful forts they must make for kids. Underneath each tree, piles of thick brown leaves and big seed pods crunched under my feet. A white gazebo stood out amongst the trees, and one sunny day I sat there for a couple of hours, gazing at the shadows and light while the magnolia trees kept my thoughts company.

21 comments:

Lorianne said...

Oh, but you have seen magnolias in bloom, at the last Friendly Green Conference. There was a wonderful branching & blooming magnolia tree right in front of one of the main buildings on campus, and I remember talking with you about wandering underneath its tent-like branches.

jo(e) said...

Lorianne: I remember the wonderful magnolia tree at that conference -- and how cool it was to stand inside it -- but I don't remember it being in bloom.

Rebecca said...

Southern magnolias such as the ones in your picture bloom in June. They have big white flowers with yellow conical stamens. On the other hand, you may have seen star or saucer magnolias in bloom -- these are deciduous trees that produce flowers before they leaf out. I don't know if it's too cold even for the hardier varieties of deciduous magnolias in Snowstorm City, but it's definitely too cold for the evergreen Southern magnolia.

(Thus ends the arboriculture lesson of the day.)

Lorianne said...

Yeah, the tree in Spartanburg was in bloom, with flowers in all stages of development: buds, flowers in prime, flowers past prime. That's what I tried to capture in the pictures to that post I linked to. (And what Rebecca says makes sense, since the Friendly Green Conference was in June.)

I think one of my favorite things to do in Spartanburg when I wasn't attending conference sessions was photographing magnolia blossoms. They're such a treat!

jo(e) said...

Lorianne: That's so funny. I looked through my photographs of the magnolia tree in Spartanburg (the big one that we could all go inside -- it was like a fort to play in), and I can't see a single flower. Maybe because I took the photos from underneath the branches? The flowers would have been on the outside.

In southern novels, when authors mentioned magnolia trees in bloom, I always pictur something more like an apple or cherry tree, where the whole tree is white and pink. But all I remember from the trees in Spartanburg were the thick green leaves. After looking at your photos, I can conjure up some images of a few blooms past their prime, but nothing that matches what I've always pictured inside my head when I read novels.

jo(e) said...

And I didn't see any women in hoopskirts either. I'm telling you, southern novels have failed me.

YourFireAnt said...

OK. There's a magnolia two houses down from me. Come over in April/May and see it in bloom. Only lasts a week, so don't forget.

;-)

YourFireAnt said...

....and it's one of the saucer magnolias, so you'll be seeing blooms on bare branches. But gorgeous! And scented.

FA

lookoutlady said...

As one who grew up with magnolias all around, we kids used the seed pods as grenades in our games--at the right time(on a late summer evening) they can be thrown and the red seeds will explode out when the pod hits the ground.

Now that I have magnolias in our yard I understand my Dad's fuming over what a messy tree they are. They are always dropping something, even scent.

kathy a. said...

we don't have much in the way of southern magnolias around here, but we do have a lot of japanese magnolias -- they burst into pink/white bloom before leafing out. a smaller one slightly downhill from us bloomed early, in january this year. a huge one farther up on the hill bloomed in february, and now is leafing.

i remember a japanese magnolia blooming where we had our wedding in late march, so all this early local blooming has been confusing me. but it was a different variety, blooming red, and located 30-40 miles northward -- and i think the winter before was especially cold. i like how the trees have their own schedules, and that what seem like small changes in location to us have significance to them.

jo(e) said...

Fireant: Oh, call me when it starts blooming, and I'll come over with my camera.

And lookoutlady, I can totally see how kids could get into battles throwing the seed pods. They are just like pine cones in that regard.

kathy a: Yeah, different microclimates. Fireant, for instance, lives only about 12 miles away from me but because she's in the city, it's a different microclimate.

Leslie F. Miller said...

The magnolia is my favorite tree in the world. I love its leaves, its seed pods in all of the stages, its flowers, its scent, its size, and its varieties.

(My code word is "outra," which isn't significant, but I liked it.)

jennifer said...

I was going to say that you needed to see the Saucer Magnolia instead of the Southern Magnolia, but luckily YourFireAnt not only beat me to it but is giving you a chance to see it. You just missed them as they are blooming this week in Atlanta. They do smell nice; almost makes up for not having lilacs around here.

Lorianne said...

Ah, no...not at all like an apple or cherry tree. The flowers are huge but scattered among the leaves like Easter eggs on a lawn. So the tree still looks green, but there are these saucer-sized white blooms dotting it.

Northern (ornamental) magnolias usually bloom before they leaf out, but the southern (native) ones bloom after the leaves are fully developed. So whereas in the north you'll see magnolias that are totally white or pink with flowers, you could be so distracted by the huge leaves on a southern magnolia that you might (?) miss the flowers.

Or maybe you were too busy looking for women in hoop skirts... ;-)

Lorianne said...

And yeah, you couldn't see the flowers from INSIDE the tree. :-)

R said...

Lorianne basically beat me to it - the flowers are big but singletons, scattered over the outer surface of the tree.

Here are some from that trip that were good enough to make it into my gallery:

http://sungazer.zenfolio.com/flowers

jo(e) said...

R: Those photos are spectacular.

How did you and Lorianne have time to walk around and take pictures of flowers? Sheesh.

R said...

You know me - I always have a camera in my hand. Plus, as the lone historian, there were a lot of panels I ignored. (Shhh...)


My verification word is "grakabu" which is just fabulous.

Meredith Leigh Knight said...

Come back mid to late May and the magnolias will be blooming. We had a huge tree in our yard before we moved, and the smell and blooms are wonderful. We're growing one at our new house now, but it will take a while.

Tie-Dye Brother-in-law said...

Hey - you could always come and visit us, when our magnolia is in bloom.

jo(e) said...

Tie-dye Brother-in-law: You guys have a magnolia? Where is it? It must look very different than the Southern Magnolias ....