Great Trees: Web Extra

A Web-only extra to the "Great Trees" feature in our April 2009 print edition.

George Peabody Arborvitae

Marie and Jeffrey Carelle planted a tree to commemorate the birth of each of their four children. This evergreen beauty was daughter Melissa’s, a tiny thing when Marie carried it home from the nursery. Now 25 years old and living in Oregon, Melissa is welcomed home by this stunning arborvitae each time she returns to Pittsburgh to visit family and friends.

Rising like a golden sunbeam behind Weischedel Florist and Greenhouses next door, its color is most vibrant in the late afternoon, when the foliage literally glows. Marie has long since lost the tree’s plant tag, but this lovely specimen appears, by its color and habit, to be a George Peabody arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘George Peabody’).  

Marie herself grew up on this property, and it was from her father, Robert Thiel, that she inherited her very green thumb.  Like his father before him, he gardened their verdant patch before Marie and Jeff assumed stewardship. How like Pittsburgh for a family to lovingly tend the same plot of ground for four generations!

Southern Magnolia

A grand old southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is not particularly newsworthy, at least not south of the Mason-Dixon Line. But this statuesque beauty grows in East Liberty, dwarfing others of her species in the Pittsburgh area and defying our northern winters. Evidently no one thought to tell her that southern magnolias weren’t hardy here – or else she simply paid them no mind.

This tree is almost famous. In the most recent edition of Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (1998, Stipes Publishing), author Michael Dirr claims to have witnessed a mature southern magnolia thriving in Pittsburgh. This is that tree. 

Beautiful glossy evergreen leaves are the perfect backdrop for the dinner plate-sized creamy white flowers in June. If one can reach them to confirm it, the blossoms are as sweetly scented as perfume. No telling how old this specimen is – it’s not polite to ask a lady’s age – but I first marveled at her elegant beauty 25 years ago when I moved to Pittsburgh. She was already of blooming age at the time. Since southern magnolias can take fifteen to twenty years to bloom from a seed, she may just gracefully be approaching middle age.

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