I love magnolia trees.
I owe this to my North Carolina connections generally, but to my two years at Wake Forest in particular.
There’s nothing quite like a tree that soars 50 feet (or more) into the air, with the prefect branch system for climbing and making mischief.
So, of course, I plant them at every opportunity.
I planted two at the first house we owned, in Durham, NC. And I planted one out front there in San Francisco.
Now, San Francisco is its own animal. We live close to the ocean, a foggy part of town. San Francisco is also basically desert, getting just a smidgeon too much water each year to officially rate as desert (from what I hear: circa 24 inches per year compared to deserts which typically get less than 16).
Thus, one must choose one’s flora with care.
I asked diligently after the fate of a magnolia tree in the Sunset District. I was assured that it would do just fine.
And it has.
Just as long as by “fine” we mean that it hasn’t died, has thickened up in the trunk, and has stayed green.
But then there’s the other part. Those promising buds.
I can keep the tree well watered. I can give it all the nutrients available in the leftover grain husks et al from my beer brewing. (Read: It’s well fertilized.)
But the one thing I can’t do is give it more sunlight.
And so, those buds arrive, full of promise. And then, eventually, they turn brown and fall off, failing to fulfill their beautiful potential.
Being objectively awesome isn’t enough.
Being well tended isn’t enough.
A magnolia tree has to be in the right place or it simply will not bloom.