Marilyn Young is Horticulture Assistant at Wave Hill.
Important players in the glorious pageant of spring are the early flowering magnolias. In his special report on the major trees of Wave Hill, arborist Bill Logan of Urban Arborists notes that our magnolias are “the strongest collection in the garden”.
To this “particularly fine group” came an exciting new addition this spring. In 2009, in honor of the Year of the Trees, Logan prepared a report on Wave Hill’s major trees. Included with his suggestions for future planting was the addition of a large, overstory tree Magnolia acuminata to help complete this family of trees’ representation. Our new cucumber magnolia, as it is commonly called, was selected by Scott Canning, Wave Hill’s Director of Horticulture, along with Brian McGowan, Assistant Director of Horticulture. The site chosen is on the lawn above and east of Wave Hill House. It was planted on April 26. Still full with buds then, it blooms a little bit later than the early ones.
Historically, this type of tree was used by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden in its program for developing cultivars, providing the big breakthrough in breeding yellow-flowered magnolias. One of these special cultivars is located south of Wave Hill’s front gate, by the lower entrance to the Herbert & Hyonja Abrons Woodland. There the glorious Magnolia x ‘Elizabeth’ bears creamy yellow, sweetly scented flowers. This grand tree is a cross between M. acuminata and M. denudata.
A venerable specimen of this second variety is the white flowered beauty just inside the main entrance, on the lawn in front of Glyndor House. The day this photo was taken it was enjoying the petal-falling moment. Underneath its tall branches, gradually greening with new leaves as the white petals fall, someone has drawn up a chair for a splendid spring seat.