May 1999

Patience is a Virtue

Our splendid spring brought an incredible number of plants into bloom simultaneously. One of my greatest pleasures on May Day was hosting a garden party under the pure white blooms of my 10 year old Magnolia. 

I collected seeds with Jonathan Wong on a pleasant fall day in 1988 at the Royal Botanical Gardens magnolia collection in the Arboretum. They were planted in pots left outside all winter in a sheltered spot and a few seedlings were left to fend for themsleves in 1989 when we left for a year in France. 

When we returned two were still alive. I thought one was M. kobus and the other M. stellata, but when both bloomed this year I had to admit they might both be M. salicifolia, or one of the kobus x salicifolia hybrids.

Not long after starting my seedlings I was dismayed to read in J.M. Gardiner's "Magnolias" that plants grown from seed take from 10 to 20 years to bloom, but resolved to carry on. This year I got one bloom from one plant (although that one was deliciously fragrant) and about 48 blooms on the other (rather less fragrant, I'm afraid!). The simple pure white flowers are large enough to be impressive but still have the elegant natural form of the wild species, unlike many of the heavy, overbred saucer magnolias.

Later this week our Wisteria, planted 7 years ago, will come into bloom. During the early years I wondered why I hadn't planted hops or grapes or something fast that would shade our deck more quickly. Now that I have several hundred bloom clusters to look forward to I'm reconciled to the first 5 years of no shade and no bloom.

An elderly European nobleman was carried out into his grounds one spring and ordered that a long allee of trees be planted later that year. A son protested that his father would surely not live long enough to enjoy the trees; would he not enjoy a parterre of beautiful flowers more? The old man replied that his son was quite right, the trees should not be planted later that year; they were all to be in the ground by the next day.

When I was 30 I dreamed of buying a big plot in the country and planting a wood upon it, hoping to live to see it when the trees began to reach early middle age at 50 years and 50 feet tall. Now that I am closer to 50 I feel, like the old noble, that it is more urgent than ever to get those trees in the ground.


Copyright 2001 by Clement Kent, c l e m e n t @ g o d e l . n e t