Marty's Garden, April 21st, 2022

There is no greater joy than seeing a magnolia in full bloom in early spring. Pink blossoms arrive when our souls need that burst of color early in the season. It is enough to make your heart sing.


No wait, let me correct that statement.


There is no sadder sight than an early blooming magnolia caught in a late frost. One day there are the magnificent flowers unfurling; the next morning they are but a blasted husk of their former self, having turned brown overnight. Soon the ground will be covered with decaying material, a great amendment to soil, but a sad sight, nevertheless.


While I still lived in NJ, I visited a gardening friend and fellow gardening club member. She had a collection of out of the ordinary shrubs and trees and among them was a yellow blooming magnolia, something I had not seen before. Right then and there I said, my Pennsylvania garden must have one too, and once we moved here, the hunt was one. In September 2017, about 16 months after moving, I found a nursery that sold yellow blooming magnolia. It did not have a tag, so I never found out which variety it was, but at least I had one!


In spring 2018 it bloomed – and yes, the nursery was correct – it had yellow blooms. My little tree did not have a ton of blooms, but the hope for the future was there. All I had to do was wait for future springs.  


2019: my tree bloomed, with five flowers! FIVE! To say I was underwhelmed was an understatement, but there was hope.


2020: my tree was full of blooms, and it lived up to my expectations. I counted ninety-eight flowers (yes, I counted them twice, just to make sure). It was a sight to behold. Then a major storm blew through only days after most of the flowers had opened. By the time the storm left I had a few petals clinging on. Oh well, it was grandiose while it lasted and there is always next spring!

Magnolia Spring 2020
Magnolia Spring 2020

2021: never did my (steadily growing) tree have more buds. Walking past it every day I wondered how beautiful it would look when the flowers finally opened. One early spring day I spied the first yellow peeking out and knew I was in for a treat in the days to come. I was going to call my gardening friend from the other side of our block to enjoy the sight of all these blooms, just so I could share it with someone else besides The Spouse! Overnight we had a heavy frost, but I did not give it another thought.  Then I came out in the garden in the morning and noticed how each slightly opened bud had gone from pale yellow to brown overnight. In the passing days as buds opened further, blasted flowers dropped to the ground and other than a few (very few!) late blooming flowers there was not much to see.


Spring 2022: here we are again. With a stretch of exceedingly nice weather in mid-March my garden jumped back to life, as did my magnolia. Buds fattened and on March 25 the first buds cracked open, showing just a hint of yellow. Then there are several nights of heavy frost in the forecast, more than enough to dash my hopes of flowers. But there are ways to protect just about anything from a late frost, frost blankets. Woven material that covers plants or early crops when frost is in the forecast. I covered my tree and hoped for the best. Despite three days of being covered up, 19 degrees Fahrenheit blasted quite a few buds and they fell off. On Easter weekend the first flowers opened; then we had another frost. When I looked on Monday morning the flowers had turned brown as did a few more opening buds. I will have flowers in the upcoming weeks, but they will be few despite the early promise.


I considered digging up my tree and replacing it with something else but after nearly five years in the ground it is turning into a handsome little tree. I may get to see a full bloom maybe once every three or five years. I may get a few flowers in other years, and I will just have to treasure each and every bloom as I get it. But gardeners are an optimistic lot; after all, there is always next spring!