Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Dirty South

Among my other trees, three or four Southern magnolias grow in my front yard. Southern magnolias are a landscape staple here in the southern U.S. They are stately broad-leaved evergreens that just scream "Old South."

However, in the spring, the Southern magnolia drops many of its oldest leaves as new growth begins. The older leaves seem to suddenly turn yellow throughout the entire tree before dropping, and the leaves decompose very slowly.

This particular trait - dropping leaves in the spring - does not encourage universal devotion to the tree. Awlnawl Says Tim writes, "I have one in front of my house here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and I hate it. Such a dirty tree. The ground is covered with huge thick leaves. Instead of doing spring stuff like new plantings I get to rake or blow leaves. I'll trade it for a Douglass Fir any day."

Magnolias struggle during dry spells, so it's a good idea to keep them watered so they won't be forced to drop even more leaves. A good layer of mulch helps maintain soil moisture. One way to hide a magnolia's considerable leaf drop is to allow the branches to grow all the way to the ground so that fallen leaves can be swept around the base of the tree.

Another approach is to just not care or at least pretend not to care - it's good to practice your leaf-raking skills in the off season, right?

Here in the Dirty South, there's always something to be raked. Droppings have their season, just like anything. In the autumn, it's leaves and pine needles. In winter, ice storms drop whole branches and sometimes even fell entire trees. In spring, you've got your blossom petals, magnolia leaves, etc. And in the summer, frequent, sometimes violent, thunderstorms will knock down surprising amounts of leaves. It never stops, so I just try to become one with the practice and keep on raking, not to accomplish anything (they'll just drop down again), but because it's what you do.

It's a Zen thing.


Mettai Cherry said...

Shokai - what a thing to say about the loveliest tree in the world...shame.shame.shame...

Shokai said...

Hey! Watch where you're pointing that shame! I was only quoting Awlnawl Says Tim.

Awlnawl Says Tim said...

My tree is just about done dropping for another season and I still stand behind my earlier post. Please don't shame me for not embracing every plant on God's green earth. I have issues with poison ivy too. I notice mettai cherry said nothing about removing the beautiful English Ivy. Shokai is right, the tree should not have been planted next to the front walk, that's all. I also think the Pink Dogwood is most lovely. I used to have one but the County tore it out to put in a sewer line. Oh, Priorities!
Love and Peace, Tim