I've been watching the magnolias blooming in Cismigiu Park every spring, for 40 years, eversince I was 10. I watched them year after year, growing bigger and bigger. Thanks to my dear aunt, I became addicted to seeing the magnolias blooming and I was checking on them as soon as the warm weather was settling over the city, in the spring. It was like my secret sign that spring has finally come. The huge flowers of the few magnolia species were filling my heart with joy and that always gave me a new energy. In the old Bucharest, I couldn't see any other magnolias blooming, except those in Cismigiu Garden, which is a real Botanical Garden, with hundreds, maybe thousands of plant species.
Over the years, I spotted other magnolias, with beautiful white or pink flowers growing in people's gardens, on my way back home from work. This is the beauty of travelling by bus: you can watch everything out the window, without caring for the traffic. Those magnolias became also part of my spring ritual of watching the magnolias blooming. I wasn't much of a gardener back then, so it never occurred to me that I could ever see a magnolia growing elsewhere, but in the Cismigiu Garden. Those growing in people's gardens seemed like a miracle! I've always wondered where did they find a magnolia to plant because I didn't know any flower shop that sold magnolias. Nowadays they have magnolias for sale in nurseries, yet they are expensive, that's why I've never thought of buying one, even when we moved into our house and had to arrange the garden. But God was good to me and repaid me for appreciating His creation, only not without some work from my part.
A few years ago - four, to be correct - I was visiting my daughter and my newborn Grandsond in the small town of Campione d'Italia, in Switzerland. I was fascinated by all the huge 'Little Gem' magnolias growing there, along the streets and in people's gardens. At the time of my visit they were just blooming. I had never seen such a huge and beautiful flower before, not to mention the whole plant (actually it is a tree) and I secretly wished I had one in my garden, although the climate there was much milder than ours.
I couldn't take a branch - although it crossed my mind. It wasn't a good time anyway, while they were blooming. But God helped me to return to those beautiful magnolias a few months later, just in time to pick up their seeds. I spotted a seed cone on a lower branch and asked a tall young man to take it for me, from the tree. I was lucky to find that lower branch with a seed cone, because all other magnolias were too tall and no one could have reached their crown. I had been researching informations about the 'Little Gem' magnolias, so I knew that those cones contained their seeds. They needed to get dry and open so the red seeds would get out and be good to be sown. No need to say how enthusiastic I was for having so many magnolia seeds! Moreover, I found more magnolia seeds while walking on the street. This time those seeds seemed like they were put there especially for me to pick them up. They were different seeds, from another magnolia - nonetheless beautiful, as I found out later - which is called Magnolia acuminata, the cucumber magnolia.
So here I was back home with lots of magnolia seeds, ready to be sown - which I did immediately.
But first I had to put them in water, so the red peel would get mild; then I peeled the seeds and sown them in a pot.
I watched them popping out in my conservatory : three 'Little Gem' and one cucumber. Then one by one died, except for one Little Gem and the cucumber magnolia. I took them outside every summer and brought them back inside during winter. I repotted them in bigger pots and they have grown about 3 feet(1 metre) high. Now it's time to plant them outside in the garden and let them grow as trees. I know they might not bloom so fast, as if they would have been grown from cuttings, but time will tell. Even if it will be only for the evergreen foliage, I will be happy to have the 'Little Gem' magnolia in my garden. As for the cucumber magnolia, I'll have the same pleasure of planting it. I now have a hard task of choosing the right place for planting them. Magnolia 'Little Gem' is going to be a big tree in the future and I wouldn't want it to suffer any distress or to cause any damage to the house. I think I've found the right place, but now I'll have to wait until the huge spiderwort bush I have in there will bloom, then I'll have to find it another place and dig it out. I'm so excited for the new change I am about to make in my garden!
I am a little worried they might not survive during our harsh winters, but I will cover them both in sack, so they won't be damaged by the deep freeze. I asked my neighbor about his magnolia 'Little Gem' which is a few years older and taller than mine. He said he doesn't cover it and it survived very well. I will be more protective with mine and cover it until it grows bigger, then we'll see. Of all the plants I've been growing indoors or outdoors, this has been the most challenging. That's why I have high hopes for both my magnolias. I am starting to feel anxious to see them blooming. What a joy to walk around the garden and see the magnolias blooming! My Aunt Iuliana will be thrilled!