November 18, 2013

Liquid Gold

At this time of year the first rays of sun in the morning light up the magnolia tree outside the bedroom window as if the sun was pouring liquid gold on the branches. It happens just as I wake each morning, and it lasts about half an hour.

At first the sky lightens outside, and I can see a sunny day is ahead. I lie in bed watching the air brighten behind the still dark leaves of the sweetbay magnolia.

Then, all at once, a few leaves on one branch turn gold. They are not the topmost leaves. These few leaves part way down are gilded, lit from below.

Then, happy with the result, the sun drips golden light all down the single branch it has chosen.

Finally, after about 15 minutes, the entire top of the magnolia is bright, creating a stained glass window in the sunshine, and I know it is time to get up.

I enjoy the sweet bay magnolia outside the window in all seasons, but this only happens in November. The sun is at just the right angle to pour liquid gold down the branches at the exact time that I wake up.

This year the sweetbay magnolia has some nice fall color, which adds to the bright golden stained glass effect in morning. Magnolia virginiana doesn't always color, but this autumn the leaves are a rich butterscotch, brown and gold, with a few green leaves for contrast.
I planted this tree in 2008, and it was a little thing in summer 2009 as the first photo shows. In 2013 it had grown over the top edge of the roof.
Magnolia virginiana in 2009
Five years later, in 2013
It has an open and loose form, which I like in front of the window. It catches light at all times of day. Sweetbay magnolia leaves have silvery undersides and they glitter when a summer breeze moves them.

It flowers in early summer with creamy buds that open clear white. The leaves stay on through winter, usually green, but this year I am hoping the rich mix of butterscotch persists.

The flowers are supposed to have a lemony scent when they open in June, but to my disappointment, my tree does not. That's okay. It makes up for it in November. As the darkest time of year approaches, this pretty tree opens the day dripping in gold sunshine.

 

25 comments:

  1. Lovely!,
    I just planted a Really tiny one this year, looking forward to seeing how it does. The leaves are a big selling point on it for me. That green/gold mix is very nice.

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    1. Acair Fearann, You'll be pleased with your little magnolia. M. virginiana has grown fast for me. The leaves are wonderful, although I have to say in late spring, when they are ready to fall and let the new foliage push through, the leaves look ratty for a short while. Then it returns to its pretty self for the rest of the season.

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    1. Lisa, golden leaves and coffee brewing -- that's a perfect morning : )

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  3. I wonder if the leaves on the sweetbays here turn gold. I will have to pay attention this year. Mostly I remember the rich brown, and how long the leaves stay on. The leaves are amazing when they flutter silver in the breeze.

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    1. Sweetbay, this is the first autumn that my magnolia virginiana has turned colors. Every other year it stayed green all through winter, with the silvery backsides. In your warmer climate I bet they stay evergreen and don't color much, or maybe just brown a little. I love that sweetbay is your namesake : )

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  4. Gorgeous way to wake up! It's the deliberate noticing and enjoying of those sorts of moments that give our lives so much joy and contentment. As gardeners, we get lots of them!

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    1. Lyn, and as a retiree I get to wake up slowly and enjoy the many moments of a beautiful morning!

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    2. Now, that's just rubbing it in!

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  5. Ooo I planted a small one of these two years ago. I can't wait for it to start to grow! Hopefully in 2014 I will see it put on some strong growth. Mine has the yellowy color this fall too. Beautiful tree!

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    1. Diane, once it gets going, sweetbay grows pretty fast. I hope yours has fragrant blooms. They are supposed to smell heavenly of lemon, but mine does not. I have a cultivar 'Jim Wilson Moonglow'. If you have the species sweetbay it will probably have fragrance. If so, I'll want to come over and smell it : )

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  6. What a lovely tree! I used to hate mornings, but now early morning as the sun rises is my favorite time of day. You've captured it beautifully--a gorgeous alarm clock!

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    1. Rose, I used to hate mornings too, but now I have such luxury to wake up slowly when I want to. Nice.

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  7. Laurrie, your keen observation and artist's eye served up a sweet look at a great tree. I don't recall colors like that on mine when I lived in Connecticut, alas. What a fine autumn you're having.

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    1. Lee, I have never seen these rich golden colors on the sweetbay's leaves before. This year is a first for fall color on this tree.

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  8. Really lovely. Is it Soulangea ? I have Stellata which is not as showy when it flowers but is very delicate. Slow growing - took YEARS to flower, but well worth the wait ...

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    1. Jane, This little tree is Magnolia virginiana. It flowers in June when the leaves are already on it. I have stellata too, and it flowers on bare branches in early spring like the big southern magnolias do. I love the different look of this little sweetbay.

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  9. How lovely to see such a wonderful tree- sweetbay magnolia - in front of your bedroom window, Laurrie! I see it grows not very fast and has pretty gold leaves. Have a nice week!

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    1. Nadezda, this really is the perfect tree to put in front of a large window. It stays open enough to see through and has pretty, twinkling leaves.

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  10. Goodness Laurrie is that a sight! Such beauty to admire right out your window! It is all about creating these vignettes to look at and this tree is gorgeous! I am bookmarking it!!!

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    1. Nicole, thanks! It does create a vignette to look at each morning, a perfect little scene : )

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  11. That fall color is outstanding, what a beautiful tree! I googled it and apparently it is also a good wildlife plant. Another small tree for my list of what I wish I had room for.

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    1. Jason, the gardener's lament -- a plant I wish I had room for! Sweetbay would go well in your garden and I think you can find a spot to tuck it in. It will take shade, and it is open and smallish and would complement the woodsy look of your spicebushes. Just suggesting . . .

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  12. What a nice way to wake up! Our house, oddly enough, has no bedroom windows overlooking the back garden. I can't tell you how often wished that this wasn't the case.

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    1. Jennifer, I am so lucky that our bedroom window is so large and that it looks out over a private back yard so the shades can be up.

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