Twenty-four years ago, the local nursery delivered a balled and burlapped magnolia to the curb in front of my house. I wrestled the heavy sapling into my son's little red wagon and we pulled it down the driveway to the far corner of the backyard. It was to be the first garden project of many.
I'd read that you should dig a hole several times larger than the rootball in order to give the roots space to stretch and establish a firm foothold. Even though the rootball was no bigger than the bed of my son's little red wagon, I dug a hole five feet deep and four feet wide. The bigger the better I thought. I unearthed a plastic ring from the 1960's, hand wrought square nails, two medicine bottles and clay marbles. I also realized that the reason the soil was suddenly so rich was likely because I was digging in the spot where the outhouse had been situated. The magnolia thrived. It now towers over the yard and is almost as tall as my three story house. My son has grown and left the city for a career out west managing wild land fires.
This year the tree bloomed three weeks earlier than usual. One afternoon, I heard a chainsaw and discovered the neighbor on the other side of the garden wall pruning branches from our tree.
The following night, my son, who claims he never dreams, called to tell me that he'd dreamed someone had cut the tree down. I sent him these photos so that he could be certain he was really dreaming.