The Arch City Gardener

Journeys In St. Louis Gardening and Beyond


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What happened to the southern magnolia’s this year?

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A southern magnolia is the lone man standing among leafy green trees and shrubbery.

In my last house a graceful southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) filled the back corner of the yard and I’d look forward to its June bloom of large, white saucer flowers against the dark green waxy looking leaves. One year, we held a surprise birthday party for my mom and I filled bowls on the table with the creamy flowers. So pretty.

I don’t have a showy southern magnolia in my yard but the trees are a quite common in the St. Louis area. Unfortunately this year, tree after tree seems to be the victim of what I am not sure. We had a drought over the winter and a cold, wet spring with a late winter blast when things began to bloom early in the spring.

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I don’t think this evergreen will make a comeback.

On a recent visit to my favorite nursery, I overheard one of the women who work there talking about how hard hit trees were by the drought.  She said area homeowners have lost lots of Japanese maples and was expecting to hear from lots more homeowners now that winter was long in the rear view mirror. It’s not until winter is long gone that the impact of a drought will become apparent.

20180529_192829There are some magnolias that look like they had a winter scorch; not all their leaves look like the photo at the top of this post. But until I overheard the comment in the garden shop, I really had not taken notice of the number of trees that have perished. It really becomes apparent when the temperatures rise and healthy trees leaf out. And my drive to and from work late spring found gardeners busy taking trees down, mostly the southern magnolias.

I never watered that magnolia at the old house. It never occurred to me that I should be watering a tree in the winter. Let me amend that. It never occurred to me until the pine next to the magnolia died one year and the nursery said it was due to a winter drought. Now, I’m more careful. Every year in late fall I begin watering the trees in preparation for winter. And one warm day this winter I watered a couple of my younger trees and the blue spruce that we have affectionately dubbed Spruce Springsteen.

Even though the calendar tells us we just began summer, here in St. Louis spring left town in early to mid May, and we went deep into a hot, hot summer with temperatures up in the 90s along with high humidity. And those southern magnolias that were lucky enough to survive, are not putting on the annual show they usually do. The blooms are rather paltry and pathetic.

 

 

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