Thursday, March 26, 2015

Magnificent Magnolia

This magnolia stands in our front yard. It is a stunning tree, one of the largest magnolias in our neighborhood. Planted decades ago in the perfect spot, it shades our house from the fierce afternoon sun. During the heat of our Southern California summers, it is invaluable. Without this tree we would roast. The shade creates a cool spot to relax when cool areas are hard to find in our blazing summers. Even on the hottest day, this garden is pleasant. My dog, Bessie loves to rest in the grass under the magnolia. 
Our home is old by Los Angeles standards, built in 1922. The magnolia was planted by someone who was planning on it growing to its full potential. And it did. The lower branches have a large spread and they reach to within a few feet of our kitchen window, providing the perfect amount of privacy from the neighboring homes and the street. 
Hummingbirds love to nest in the magnolia. Two years ago the most amazing thing happened and a hummingbird built her nest in the branch closest to our kitchen window. Standing at the sink, we could see her feeding her babies. What a treat that was! Here are her twins on the day before they flew away.
To say I became a little obsessed about them is definitely true. I mean, they were nesting 4 feet from our kitchen window! That spring when I was gardening in the front shade garden (under the magnolia), I tried to stay away from her nest, but one day she really scolded me. Here's how a hummingbird mother says, "Stay away from my babies!!"

She got right up in my face, what a brave mama.

We had the tree pruned recently for the second time since we moved here in 1994. One reason we waited so long was because of all the birds that make it their home. It breaks my heart to think nests were destroyed but the tree had to be pruned. The transformation was amazing. With the tree thinned out we can now see the sunset from our front windows and door. For years the tree had obscured that view with its thick and lush foliage. Don't get me wrong, I love looking out our windows and seeing this tree. I prefer the tree to the view, but now both can be appreciated and last night the silhouette was stunning. 
To be honest, this magnolia is one of the reasons I wanted to buy this house. As soon as I drove up and saw this magnificent tree, I felt at home. You see, my grandparents had their own magnificent magnolia which towered over their backyard creating the atmosphere of my grandmother's magical garden. Her garden was mostly shade and she grew the most incredible fuschia plants, bleeding hearts and elephant ear plants with leaves which seemed gigantic to little me. My grandfather had a love-hate relationship with his magnolia. He loved enjoying a beer in the shade but the leaves were his torment. They drop basically continually and he was out there with his rake cussing those leaves on a weekly basis. My memory of that tree is the leaves made beds for my Barbies, and the seed pods were collected as treasure, the more the better. They are something to behold, those seed pods.
One amazing thing about this tree is the leaves. From above they are glossy green yet the underneath side is rust velvet. I spent many hours in my grandparents yard playing with those leaves, mindlessly touching the soft underside while listening to the grownups talk. What I wouldn't give to have one more of those afternoons in my grandma's garden hearing my grandpa tell stories. At least we have a magnificent magnolia of our own and wonderfully happy memories.

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