Borrowed Landscape



This magnificent Queen Anne house and magnificent magnolia soulangeana are right across the street from me in Saratoga Springs, NY.  Not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful for the sight of both of them.

I’ve always wanted a magnolia soulangeana, and it’s only since I moved to Saratoga Springs, a balmy Zone 5, that I’ve lived somewhere warm enough for one.  But I have a small city yard, and no right place for such a big square tree.

My husband says that ownership is not important and to simply enjoy the neighborhood magnolia. I get only limited satisfaction from this National Park Service idea of shared landscape.  I’m stewing about whether, if I take out a miserable crabapple, I could shoehorn one of my own into a shady corner.

Guess which one of us is the gardener?


  1. We bought my daughter a pink saucer magnolia as her birth tree. It has been moved from the farm to town, and has never bloomed in either spot. We will be moving again and finally I have said, “honey, you can pick out a different tree when we get there”. She is now eyeing up the white star magnolias, much more predictable in our climate. But oh how I love to borrow the big pink ones all over our town, quite a fabulous display if the conditions are just right (which they rarely are).

  2. I will have to get up to Saratoga and look at that sometime! Is it near the city center? What a gorgeous house and tree; you are indeed blessed to have them to look at each day. I am in Albany–my garden is in spectacular spring bloom right now from all the recent warmth (but I have been watering more than I normally would).

    I have started a personal gardening blog at but have not put much on it yet; I hope to get some photos up this week.

  3. Hey Michelle,
    Great news! You can have your magnolia after all. Look for the “Black Tulip” variety grown by Monrovia. This variety is smaller growing (about 15 feet tall by 6 feet wide) but can be grown in a large container! The container itself will help keep the maximum growth in check. The blosoms are a dark burgandy and amazing to look at in the Spring.
    Another idea is to espalier a small 5 or 15 gallon magnolia against a tall wall. Many trees can be espaliered this way and it is a great technique for smaller or “patio size” trees.

    Go outside and find a wall or space for your big containter and enjoy!

  4. Thanks, Shirley. I can’t overwinter a container in my part of the world, but will check out the variety.

  5. I have a tree problem. I’d rather plant trees than anything else. Unfortunately I don’t have acreage. I love magnolias however a) they are every 6 feet in Seattle and b) the one I had in the yard hadn’t done *anything* in 9 years – nary a bloom. It’s gone now in favor of a nice Japanese Sunrise Maple. And the half dead Crape Myrtle is leafing out, and the Golden Full Moon Maple has never been so spectacular. Hmm. If I gave up the driveway there would be room for more.

  6. @Michelle, I’m with both your husband and you. Borrowed landscaping is great, until the rightful owner takes the source away. I’ve been weeping, seething, weeping and so on over the brutal removal of a “snowball” plant (Viburnum plicatum?)in our neighbor’s backyard. Until now sweeping branches abundant with cascading blossoms beautified our side of the fence. Just the other day I looked down at that veil of green on green,from the kitchen window, knowing that the green “balls” would soon burst into amazing white balls. But no, the wackedy wack wacker came and wiped-out the spring beauty before it could truly blossom. What was a rustic corner of our yard before now shows only the plain old rotten fence (the neighbor’s). The gaps between the planks take away all privacy, and what I see in the other yard isn’t pretty. Ouch!

  7. @rebecca Wanting to plant a tree is no problem. Especially not in Seattle where you can apply for the Mayor’s plant fund. If you round up 4 other tree lovers in your street, you can get trees for your parking strip. Put in sweat equity and they’re yours. We got two birches that way, and 4 other neighbors other species. Wonderful initiative!

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