Southern Holiday Tradition

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EVERGREENS HAVE long been part of our southern holiday decorating schemes. Long before the Christmas tree became a popular tradition in the newborn Americas, people of other cultures and time periods used evergreen boughs as a reminder that the brown earth would soon be green and growing again. Doorways and living areas were adorned with the native evergreens beckoning the weak sun to become strong again. We can still identify with this today and mourn that 5 p.m. darkness! Luckily, we understand seasonal change and know that we are only three months away from the return of longer days and more green in our gardens.

Today, southerners still enjoy using our native evergreens to celebrate the season and bring a little nature into our homes. We all tend to think of pine, spruce, cedar and fir as our traditional holiday evergreens, but let us not forget our beautiful Southern Magnolia. The tree is named magnolia to commemorate Pierre Magnol, a professor of botany and medicine in Montpellier, France in the early 18th century. We are blessed to be home to the Magnolia Grandiflora or Southern Magnolia. This magnolia is both the state flower and state tree of Mississippi. It is also the state flower of Louisiana.

Magnolias are the oldest flowering plants of the world and magnolia fossils have been found in rocks over 40 million years old. Magnolia flowers are pollinated by beetles because magnolias evolved before bees and other flying pollinators. The flowers attract beetles with fragrant, sugary secretions. Our Southern Magnolia is indeed an evergreen, although it does shed leaves as it replaces the old leaves with new ones. Speaking of the leaves, they make beautiful decorations for wreaths and holiday tables. Don’t forget the seed pods. They look beautiful when sprayed with a little gold to add glam to any arrangement.

A magnolia tree will add that wonderful touch of green to any winter landscape and provide shade to a garden as well. If you choose the Magnolia Grandiflora for your landscape, be sure to leave plenty of growing room. This large blossomed tree can grow as tall as 100 feet and have a bottom spread of 20-30 feet. When young, magnolias tend to grow in a conical shape and then spread out as they age.

The Magnolia Grandiflora symbolizes endurance and long life and who doesn’t need a boost of that during the holiday season? This holiday season, go native and make the natural beauty in your own backyard a special part of your holiday tradition.

Email your gardening questions and comments to Lisa at shakeslyons@aol.com.

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