Magnolia tree

lynne3450June 18, 2010

Hi, my first post! DH and I just closed escrow on our first home, and I'm new to gardening, and really don't have a natural aptitude for it, but I dream of California native plants, and specifically of transforming our front yard to low-water plantings and natives.

I'd also like to plant a beautiful tree in memory of our greyhound, Timber, who passed away 9 months ago, and bury her ashes beneath the tree. Ideally, I'd like to choose a tree that will be so beautiful that even when we move away from this home years down the road, a new family will appreciate its beauty and it will never be chopped down.

I LOVE those beautiful magnolia trees that blossom in the early spring with the magenta/purple/white blossoms. Are those particularly low-water/ drought-tolerant? Will a tree like that work in my dream front yard?

If not, can you suggest an equally breath-taking, timeless tree to honor our wonderful dog?

Thank you!


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iris_gal(z9 CA)

I love Magnolia soulangiana. There are many cultivars. Remember to take the eventual width into account when designing your garden.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 2:59AM
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Magnolia x soulangeana is not at all drought-tolerant, although very old specimens may be more durable.

More importantly, Magnolia x soulangeana is very sensitive to hard water and since you indicate you're in zone 10, I'm assuming you're in Southern California where the water is very hard. The minerals in the water will cause "tip burn" on the Magnolia, often quite extensively by mid summer. Many people accept that as a trade-off for the fantastic flowers but I'm thinking that you probably want something that is as beautiful as your dog was, all the time. With a name like "Timber", you need to honor him with a beautiful TREE.

Tell us more about your conditions. As iris_gal has already pointed out, the "eventual width" of the tree should match your space. How big a tree can you allow? Do you want a deciduous tree such as the magnolia?; or do you want something evergreen? Is magenta/pink/white your color scheme or a color that is somehow associated with Timber?; will another color work? Is wind a factor? Why not a native tree?


    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 11:29AM
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Hi, thank you both for your responses!

Timber was a brindle greyhound, hence her name (a cute name, don't you think!?). Really, my criteria is that I enjoy the tree for it's beauty (something with breathtaking flowers) or, a cedar or redwood (two trees I'm fond of, but didn't think our front yard would have the space). And also, something that would work well with drought-tolerant landscape plantings in the front.

We are in SoCal (Los Angeles), on a partially-shady lot. Not too much sun-- dappled I guess. Our lot is only about 6,500 sf, and has a pretty small front yard. Mature Chinese Elms line the block, including our little strip on the other side of the sidewalk, and we have a giant Southern Magnolia in the back of the house. Both of these mature big trees provide lots of pleasant shade on our property. It does get windy.

I'm so new to gardening that I don't understand the diff btwn deciduous and evergreen/ perenial and annual! Trying to read a lot and learn, but it's a lot to take in!

Thank you for your ideas/ suggestions!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 11:43PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)

Our water here (central coast) is actually harder than the water we had south of LA. Lovely old soulangeanas scattered around town here. The supplier accidently (?) gave me a Magnolia stellata when I was doing my front yard (down south) ~ my husband insisted upon keeping and it wasn't as beautiful in my eyes. Did well.

I also love flowering peaches (deciduous). Need full sun. There are some gorgeous camellias for dappled sun if you can do with a shrub. Some are graceful & some straighter growth.

Get a copy of Sunset's garden book! Perfect for telling you what will do well in your zone. The older editions in used book stores are excellent.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 3:12AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

As you describe your site,limited in space,partial shade, deciduous,leafless in the winter. It sounds like a good location for a Cornus, or Dogwood. In honor of your dog also sounds appropriate. Here I am very fond of the Cornus kousa, which can be grown as a small standard tree or large multi-trunk shrub. Al

    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 9:30AM
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Small "trees" for light shade in So. Cal, wind-tolerant:

Acca sellowiana PINEAPPLE GUAVA
Camellia reticulata GIANT CAMELLIA
Cryptomeria japonica (esp. ÂBlack DragonÂ,
Ilex x altaclarensis 'Wilsoni' WILSON'S HOLLY
Laurus nobilis BAY LAUREL
Podocarpus nagi NAGI
Rhaphiolepis ÂMajestic Beauty M. B. INDIAN HAWTHORNE


    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 9:40AM
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Ya know what -- Camellia and Cryptomeria are not drought-tolerant. My bad.


    Bookmark   June 21, 2010 at 10:11AM
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I'm having a similar debate with myself. We just had the city of LA check out our parkway to let us know which kinds of trees we can get street tree permits for. Southern Magnolia is one of the 4 recommendations (CA Live Oak, Jacaranda and Camphor are the others). I LOVE magnolia, but also like the idea of using native and/or drought tolerant plants... Afraid the beauty of the magnolia may get the best of me. Any other benefits to planting one of the other 3 that I should know about? Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 1:38PM
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Dick_Sonia(Sunset 17)

With so many exciting drought tolerant beauties from Mexico, Brazil, Australia and other arid-tropical locations to choose from, I don't know why you would want to struggle to grow something as ordinary as a deciduous magnolia. I would look at Guaiacum coulteri, Bauhinia x blakeana, Tabebuia impetiginosa, Cassia leptophylla, Schotia brachypetala, and Bolusantus speciosus for starters. All are small to medium drought-tolerant trees that would do well in your climate and soil conditions. There are hundreds of others.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 5:13PM
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Whatever you choose, give some thought to where you plant it. You don't want a tree that will raise your patio or whatever hard surfaces you might have. Also, if the tree drops a lot (leaves, flowers, bark), it would be better placed on a lawn than over a walkway or patio.

Be sure you have a copy of the Sunset Western Garden Book. I'm sure there is helpful information there as well as here.

What a wonderful way to remember your dear Timber. Best wishes for many happy times and gardening fun in your new home.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 7:19PM
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dick_sonia lists some absolutely fabulous small-medium trees.

dick: how do they do in shade?


    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 12:35PM
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Just wanted to chime back in and say "thank you!" We moved 2 weeks ago and have been doing nothing but painstaking interior work... hopefully by early autumn we can focus on our gardening! Thank you, everyone!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2010 at 11:45PM
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