Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’. Again. Beloved of landscapers and non-gardeners alike, it is even more popular in Australia than in New Zealand. For readers who continue to think that the name ‘Little Gem’ means this is a dwarf tree that will only reach two or maybe three metres high, I offer you these plants photographed from Sydney daughter’s third floor balcony. They are already head height on the third floor and will have more growing to do.
These particular plants have been stretched upwards by close planting at not much more than metre spacings. Trees will reach for the light when there is competition but there is nothing unusual about ‘Little Gem’ reaching this height. Apparently the owners of the ground-floor apartment are not so keen on them. I can understand this. All they will see is the bare trunks at the base but to them falls the task of cleaning up the leathery leaves which take a very long time to break down. It is our daughter who gets the benefit of flowers and foliage three stories up.
Just be warned if you are planting this handsome but ubiquitous tree in a small space. Also, do not expect a glorious floral display from the evergreen grandiflora magnolias, such as you get from deciduous magnolias and members of the evergreen michelia family. The grandiflora flowers are individually showy but short-lived and generally few in number at any time. The bougainvillea in this photo from the third floor balcony has since been removed by the ground floor owners and I can’t blame them for that. Like most climbers, it flowers on the top growth, so they would have had all the problems of rampant and wayward growth with fierce thorns but none of the delight of the colourful bracts.
Urban living is a source of some fascination for me, a long-term country dweller with huge amounts of personal physical space – even more so when it is high density, inner city living rather than suburbia. There is much discussion in our largest city of Auckland these days about the need for intensification of housing in the face of a rapid growth in population. I could not help but notice in Sydney that the provision of space for rubbish and recycling collection is often overlooked in the planning of both building and the provision of services. When your only outdoor space is almost totally taken up by a plethora of recycling bins, it seems a failure of something.