krnuttleMarch 31, 2014

I have a Magnolia Grandaflora I believe.

History: We live east of Raleigh and about three years ago we were helping my daughter' clean up the plantings in front of her house. As we were cleaning up My wife found a 14" seedling that was growing at the edge of her air conditioner.

The parent Tree is about 30 feet tall and is conical shaped, and comes down to the ground. As I said I believe it is Grandaflora, or a close cultivar based on the leaves and the flowers.

I suspect that my seedling, now about 4' tall that was grown from seed, has probably reverted to the unknown original stock.

I know this is not much but hopefully my question does not need more.

While the Parent tree grows from the ground, will it be possible in the coming years to trim this tree so that as it matures I will be able to walk under it, or is it magnolia natural predestine to grow in this conical shape that goes to the ground.

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

a tree is a tree...

and you are in charge of pruning ... every single tree in my yard ... is pruned so i can walk under it.. and mow at about 50mph ... lol .. without poking out an eye .. i did not research what kind they were .. i just sawed on them ... when they knocked my hat off..

i see all kinds of ancient saucer mags in downtown ann arbor.. gotta be a hundred years old ... and they are all pruned up ...

i dont see where your different type would have a requisite form ... no matter the parent ... or species ...

the only trick.. is proper pruning.. no stubs ...


ps: a good pruning saw makes the job real easy ...

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 3:10PM
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Sounds like my father and grandfather's advice on pruning; "Prune when the knife is sharp" I have followed their advice for several decades and have never had a problem.

However I am from northern Indiana, and this is the first experience I have had with a real magnolia, and was not sure.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 3:18PM
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You can limb up a southern magnolia, no problem. If you do that, you will have to deal with their fruit and leaf litter which are comparatively hard on a lawn mower so a good rake may be a good investment. In fact, many people let them branch to the ground so they do not have to clean up the tree's mess!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 3:42PM
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I have 2 small EG Magnolia's one regular southern EG, and the other Bracken's BB. Is it possible that the canopy will be so dense as to make grass hard to grow? I am hoping that is the case,

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 8:22PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

Many people with large evergreen magnolias that have been limbed up, maintain a wide circular area that is mulched -- because the foliage is so dense that grass does not grow well directly under them.

But as the j0nd03 says, you will have to contend with often year-round litter - leaves, seed balls, spent blossoms, etc. to maintain a tidy area around the plant.

Many people do not limb them up so they can just rake the litter under the tree and forget about it.

It's really your call how you want the tree to look. But I would not expect a lush lawn growing underneath it if you limb it up.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 9:58AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Evergreen trees and shrubs tend to look better with branches coming to the ground. And will grow better with litter being left on the ground beneath their branches; the common ugly limbing up hollies and conifers etc. appears to be most often done because the tidy minded cannot stand the thought that there is debris under there, even if it is not particularly visible - many people maintain their outdoor spaces almost as though it was the inside of the house.

Exceptions are large specimens with interesting bark and large specimens that are in lawns where it looks better to have the grass come right up to the trunk. Trees so pruned should have been well on the way to getting rid of the lowest, oldest, smaller shaded branches themselves, with the bulk of the tree's top already well above pruning height. Young evergreen trees with large or largish basal branches look scalped when these are cut off; I have seen the hilarious term "Calgary Palm" used for the brutalizing of young spruces there.

The psychological effect produced on those so attuned of limbing up a young evergreen yard specimen is the same as if a living room Christmas tree was displayed with no bottom branches.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 1:02PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I agree that leaving it with its natural lower branches looks much better. We have tons of Magnolia grandiflora around here. The best looking ones are consistently the ones with lower limbs left intact. I have a few in my yard, but the larger one out back was pruned up just a little (just enough so that no branches touched ground) looks good to me. I keep fallen limbs and twigs racked up for a cleaner look.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 4:08PM
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The above couple of comments are best attributed to personal opinion and are subjective at best. A successful argument could be made in both directions but it all boils down to how you want your tree to look and work for you and how careful you are with pruning.

Do evergreen trees look best limbed to the ground? Seems like a pretty blanket statement to me as not all evergreen trees are inclined to grow that way in the first place. And certainly coniferous evergreen growing in a natural environment tend not to be branched to the ground anyway - lower branches are invariably shaded out by neighboring plants.

Here is a link that might be useful: limbed up or not? looks about 50-50 to me

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 5:29PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Tall trees in a stand of the same species do not read as individual accent points or features in the landscape. And do not have the same architecture and proportions as a small or comparatively small, more or less conical specimen in a home landscape - note I said this already, that bigger trees with most of their branches already overhead are a different situation.

As for it always being a matter of however it looks, at random, to any given individual then I guess there must actually be no generally shared perceptions, no laws of design - and therefore no need to hire landscape designers such as yourself to produce particular visual effects.

And we can take down all the stop signs because red really isn't the color of alarm. And green is not an assuring color, that says "go ahead, it's okay" when used for a traffic light.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 5:50PM
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It really depends on your circumstances. I don't think it would hurt the tree to limb up, but I would't think of doing it with mine. Magnolias (both Northern deciduous ones and Southern Evergreen ones), are favorites for deer to rut!
They tend to do less damage if you let it grow to the ground. This is not quite the tree to grow anything under anyway--shade too dense. But, I would add that not all cultivars are inclined to grow low to the ground, and others...very inclined.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 5:53PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

"the tidy minded cannot stand the thought that there is debris under there, even if it is not particularly visible"

This gave me a chuckle bboy. So true.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 6:19PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

To slightly expand on part of what Bboy said, the limbed up M.g. specimen doesn't even really resemble the natural tree found in a stand. Most of them resemble a full, natural stand-along specimen that someone has attacked with a saw! Some (especially really large ones) look good, but not as majestic as the unadulterated ones.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 6:34PM
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While I realize I am probably beating dead horses, aesthetics are subjective and personal. Were they not, all of us would be visiting museums full of old masters and ignoring MOMA. Or living in traditional Victorian homes and avoiding any contemporary architecture. When Frank Lloyd Wright first started promoting his organic architecture, peers and critics were aghast. The "traditional" aesthetics were being ignored.

Personally, I dislike conifers that have been "cloud pruned" or pom-pomed. Or even shrubs that have been topiaried into specific shapes. But there are many who do favor such techniques. Is my aesthetic more correct than theirs? Or theirs more than mine? It is just a different aesthetic but no more or no less valid.

And FWIW, there are very few "laws" of design. Principles, - yes, but even those are very much open to interpretation.

As to the magnolia specifically, perhaps the larger specimens in the South do look more majestic if allowed to grow naturally, especially where there's some real estate involved. Here, larger cultivars are less common and most grow with a clear trunk span of varying degrees without human interference. Do they look awkward? Personally, I don't think so but apparently others do. Also it is very unusual to see one of the common dwarf forms around here with anything but a clear trunk span, with branching starting high. This is how the trees seem to grow naturally. Hard to argue with the aesthetics of Mother Nature.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 4:16PM
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Dave in NoVA • 7a • Northern VA

I agree with gardengal...there is no hard and fast rule with M. grandiflora.

In fact very old specimens have lost most of their lower branches. But some of the lowest branches bend down and touch the ground in one or more spots.

To me, these old, old specimens look best with a thick layer of mulch.

One thing I forgot to add was that Southern mags often develop large surface roots that could make it very difficult to grow things under, mow over, or you could trip on them. Not a real big deal, but a nice layer of dark mulch would make the plant look real tidy.

If space is NOT an issue, I'd probably leave it unpruned.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 6:14PM
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With a growth rate of 1 to 2 feet a year, the fact that tree years ago it was a seed that had fallen on the ground, and the fact that I am 70, I don't think I will have to worry about the ultimate problems. I think I will trim it so I can mow under it and let my estate and the next owners worry about limbs that touch the ground.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 7:41PM
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