Or, how I discovered the magnolia tree and learned what to do with its leaves.
For years I grumbled about my neighbour using his leaf blower to push his fallen magnolia leaves onto our property. Grr. It would make me so mad. Then 2011 came along and the problem disappeared. That year marked a tipping point for this everlasting drought. Any plant that was barely surviving, like my neighbour’s magnolia tree, simply surrendered.
That fall a much louder than usual buzzing noise came from next door. The leaf blower was going to be stowed away for good. A small crew armed with chain saws relentlessly transformed his tree into firewood. Suddenly, the problem of dealing with an extra mountain of leaves seemed trivial.
His tree was enormous — a heritage tree of roughly the same size as the magnolia growing in our yard. They were probably planted around the same time and I started to worry that our tree might also be in peril.
Now, I have to admit something. Magnolia trees seemed like terribly exotic things when I first moved here. I didn’t even know what this tree was when I first saw it. Newb that I am when it comes to gardening in a subtropical climate I had to look it up on the internet.
“Ahhh. So THIS is one of those famous southern magnolia trees,” I said to myself. I mean like everyone else on the planet I had heard about them … probably from a gothic novel where people sit on porches and sip mint juleps in between suffering from the vapours (whatever THOSE are).
Next question: so, what kind of mulch is best for magnolia trees?
Most places recommended using straw or pine bark and I started to despair. Where was I going to get straw? I live in a city. Pine trees? They don’t grow anywhere near here. Besides, what the heck was I going to do with the small mountain of thick leathery magnolia leaves that take forever to compost?
Then one day (insert magical wand sound effect) I ran into a place (which I have since been unable to find) that gave a completely different answer. It said, the best mulch for a Magnolia grandiflora is: magnolia leaves!
I like that idea a lot. It seems reasonable that a native tree would probably prefer to recycle its own leaves. Plus, this means a whole lot less work. I used to spend hours and hours raking leaves, shredding them, putting them into the compost bin (where they needed to be watered and turned and then re-transported once they were broken down …. )
But is this just lazy wishful thinking? I’d love to hear what more experienced gardeners think.