When you chose to plant something, you do what you can to make it happy, but you never really know if all is well till it blooms.
Two years ago this fall I saw a young, dwarf Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora,) on sale. My husband had put the kybosh on early spring magnolias, but here was one that bloomed in late spring. And in white, a color that does not put teeth on edge. But zone 7 was the extreme limit of its range, and Northwest Philly was not yet officially zone 7. Did I mention it was on sale? And that its older leaves were shiny evergreen on one side, and covered with a soft, tawny dust on the other? Leaves so begging to be touched and loved and treasured that, well--my wallet was out before I knew it.
There is a small mound on one side of the sun porch that is completely protected from the wind, as it stands within a U made by the house and an overgrown rhodo. As it gets full sun, it is a good spot for zone-challenging plants. My acanthus, zone 7, has done well there.
So I planted the magnolia there. You can see it tip at the top-right corner of the above picture. It didn't bloom that following summer and I consoled myself that it was still a fine foliage plant. And I'd given up on its blooming this year--I mean spring is pretty much over.
But I was in for a grand surprise, a Magnolia grandiflora hazarding out its first exquisite, lemon-scented bloom, with another still forming. The plant is happy, and that makes me happy.
So--this I'll pass on. Do you know the micro-climates in your yard? The warm, well-drained areas, the cold pockets, the shady deserts under trees? Try to, cause it lets you plant intelligently, which greatly ups your chances of success. Fit the needs of the plant to the character of the place and you will have made gardening a whole lot easier.
Here is a pic of my rock garden, which I created just so I could grow certain plants that do not do well in amended clay. If you want to know more about microclimates and what to plant in them, there is a gardening book by Roy Lancaster--"Perfect Plant, Perfect Place." When I first started gardening I did my best to absorb most of it, and have relied on its M.O. ever since.The Free Library owns copies, including ones at the Chestnut Hill branch and Central. Its call # is: 635.965 L221P. Happy Gardening!
And look--2 more blooms, with the one in bud looking just like an egg. A grand welcome to the coming summer.