Somehow, you know summer is almost here when the Southern magnolias begin to bloom.
In East Tennessee, we have seven species of magnolia: cucumber, umbrella, bigleaf, Fraser, sweetbay, Southern and tuliptee, but it’s the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) with its enormous (up to 12 inches in diameter) citronella-scented white flowers that is so associated with the Deep South and sultry, hot afternoons; it's the polished, aristocrat of Southern trees.
The evergreen with large glossy leaves was often planted near the house, where—with a pitcher of fresh-squeezed lemonade—it could be admired from the shade of the front porch.
There are two excellent Southern magnolias at Ijams. Look for one on the Giffin-McDonald property opposite the front gate on Island Home Avenue and the other at the Homesite near the beginning of the Serendipity Trail.
- Text and photo by Stephen Lyn Bales