A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

A Once-Mighty Magnolia Falls

Louis Bauer is Wave Hill’s Director of Horticulture.

We’ve been dressing the gardens for the annual gala this Thursday evening, and with the weather suddenly warmer and sunny, we’ve gotten even busier. But we had an unwelcome task as well.

For months now we’ve been watching one of our magnolia trees, this one located in front of Glyndor Gallery. We have a number of magnolias, all Magnolia grandiflora, but each a different cultivar. The one flush up against the east wall of Glyndor is Magnolia grandiflora ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’. And a lustrous beauty it has been for most of the 21 years since it was planted here by founding Director of Horticulture Marco Polo Stufano. This first shot from 2013 gives some idea of how it looked in its heyday.

The-Tree-in-its-healthy-years-2013In the last couple of months, though, it’s become clear that it was failing. I surmise that there have been a number of contributing factors. The eastern façade of the building is all broadleaf evergreens—hollys, boxwoods, and Ilex. Picture the magnolia trying to compete with these very thirsty evergreens for moisture, then recall how dry our fall was. Then how dry and warm our winter was. Then the sudden, hard frosts we had in February and March. I think those might have been the last straw for the magnolia. Perhaps it just wasn’t able to compete as effectively for moisture. Perhaps it wasn’t able to tolerate the drought as well as the other evergreens. This next shot shows how very brown the foliage turned this spring.


So Tuesday morning, a glum, rainy one that suited our grim mood, our arborist Almstead Tree, Shrub & Lawn Care took it down. The next series of shots documents the sad moment.Almstead-2

Almstead-4Almstead-5And here what’s left with it gone.after-it-all

Once it was down, Wayne Morris, our Assistant Director of Horticulture, counted approximately 23 rings, so we assume that this magnolia was planted when it was really very young. In the intervening years, it had grown even taller and fuller than anticipated, to the point that it was blocking the light in two of the windows located on the second floor of Glyndor. The silver lining to this cloud is that we’ll be able to replace the magnolia with a smaller specimen more suited to the scale—and to the intense competition of its neighbors. Stay tuned!

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