23 March 2009

Maximum Maggie

The star of the yard in spring is Maggie, the Star Magonlia. This is not just any star magnolia, but a "Dr. Merrill" (Magnolia x loebneri). Maggie is big, husky, muscular, and not like most normal star magnolias.

As an inexperienced beginner gardener over 15 years ago, the desire for a star magnolia resulted in a pick from a garden catalog photo. Normal star magnolias in town look delicate, usually growing into a tall shrub of several trunks, like a lilac. This one turned out differently. It grew about 20-30 feet tall (6 m to 9 m) into a full blown tree.

But big can be good. The blossoms are larger than a normal star magnolia. They result in more sweet magnolia scent perfuming the neighborhood. Last year, the tree was covered in blossoms. This year, they are less numerous, but with no cold damage, why?

Maggie's deciduous leaves are large and thick (the brute), providing a solid shade canopy over anything below. Very little grows under it due to the lack of light as well as to its thick root system, often running along the top of the ground. In the fall, the leaves turn a luminous golden yellow, and then fall to smother anything below it, along with those nasty seed pods.

Some small white snow azaleas were planted below it, but one has since died. Now, as the tree really matures, the search is on to find plants that can be fill in below it. The loosestrife [6.26.2008] planted below has done well for the past two years. Since grass no longer grows beneath, vinca minor ground cover will be transplanted there from another part of the yard to take its place. Vinca grows in dry shade. After researching online for this post, I find that this ground cover is a non-native invasive plant. It is a slow dancer in my yard, though.

For The Record:
  • Medium heavy soil
  • Full sun
  • No fertilizer, surface mulched once a year

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Star magnolia
  • Seedlings progress: broccoli, peppers, onions germinated
      Broccoli germination, 10 days
      Peppers germination, 18 days
      Onions germination, 9 days