Everyone has their inner clock to mark the passing of time. It may be the beginning of a new calendar year, the September back to school rush or a birthday. Mine is rooted, literally, outside the bedroom window. It is around the third week of March when the bare limbs of the magnolia tree start to wink little slivers of cotton candy pink from the heavy buds that have carried the weight of winter snow and frost. Someone, who was my introduction to gardening and the strength of perennials, once commented when I was talking about what I would do differently for the next growing season. "It's in your soul now," she said. "People who really love their gardens in their souls are always looking ahead at ways to improve or plan differently." March is the month of seed and garden catalogues, trays and garden magazines and it feels like a new beginning every year to me.
When we moved into our house on an unseasonably warm day in November ten years ago a friend of mine stopped by with her three small children. One of her boys had the classic Elmer Fudd 'r' speech pattern and pointed up at the magnolia which had dropped most of its leaves by then. He said "I have one of those 'twees.' They are 'pwetty twees' but they are 'vewy, vewy' messy!" He sure knew what he was talking about. I love the magnolia but each season aside from winter has a different clean up assignment. There are enormous leaves that drop, candle shaped parts of the flower pod that bounce off the car and eventually all the delicate pink pedals will come down, leaving the tree bare once more, before the leaves fill in the blanks with new green leaves.
For about two weeks the magnolia tree will start its journey from its winter rest with what seem like tiny pink light bulbs that get a bit brighter every day. The buds are all out of their protective cocoons now and the timing of warm weather arriving in the next few days will be the perfect combination for the perfume of the magnolia's flowers to fill the yard. The magnolia flowers mingle with the intoxicating scent of the hyacinths that sprout at the tree's roots along with daffodils and later the tulips and I welcome the display every spring. The enormous spray of pink flowers against a cerulean sky is a sight so lovely the garbage truck lingered at the end of the drive on one collection morning last year. "Wow. That's a great tree," one of the men yelled to me last year as I worked on my flower boxes.
When the tree drops its leaves in the fall it feels like the awning that we ate outdoor candlelit meals under has been retracted for the season revealing the bird nests that were hidden among the tallest branches. That is the time we retreat indoors and on those chilly days when it feels like spring will never arrive. The first bit of pink in the buds of the magnolia tree says it is indeed on the way.