If I had to do it all over again (and I just might — why should Hindus have all the fun?) I would come back as a magnolia, and not just any old deciduous one but the king of all of them, magnolia grandiflora, whose blossoms are huge throughout the season, blooming until frost, with a perfume so powerful it makes the knees of gladiators feeble in combat and is an old, old treasure, dating eons past to when giant herbaceous reptiles dined on their blossoms and possibly on their leaves, which (ah, Darwin!) came to be lovely looking but thick and coarse and, I would assume, inedible. It is the only thing about the tree that is substandard and leads to clattery leaf fall to where they lie like hard, dry bits of leather and refuse to compress or rot and must be lifted one by one lest the base of the tree and the general surround of the garden look like a graveyard of foliage, however much a steady rain on them gives a percussive sound as if one’s fingertips were on the high end of a drum.
I hope I will be planted well so that I thrive. Old hats have it that I am not “reliably hardy” north of Washington, D.C., but that has never been true (Boston even has some and New York City, many) and the warming cycle we are supposedly in has made this caveat obsolete.
The rule of trowel or green thumb is that I would be delighted to have a southern exposure against a wall (and a house one will do) and a perch of well-draining soil lest winter frosts leak at my roots and cause me to implode.
I would want, or rather, demand, that I be the old-fashioned grandiflora and not one of the new, winter-hardy magnolias that have lost blossom size in their breeding.
I would want, no, expect, a cushion of small bulbs beneath me in the spring and, perhaps, a clematis to partially climb me in the summer. Huldine will do.
I would need compost annually and no cultivation around me for my roots would be close to the surface and they would, as they do now, “resent interference” in the form of stirring, prodding, or manipulation of any kind. Do be sure of my eventual spot because I transplant poorly.
Snow may gather on my foliage and must be swept off (a broom will do) for although I hold a lot there is a point at which my branches will snap. I really look dreadful when mutilated and take seasons to recover my good looks. I prune well, however, but wrenching and ripping are definitely not my thing.
I hope you won’t mind but I prefer any other odoriferous plant, shrub, or tree to be a good distance from me as my perfume does not cotton to dilution. An open window will reward, particularly a bedroom one, a study or library one being definitely out as I am too strongly a bar to concentration. Or talk, for that matter, so the living room is out as well.
I am not a flower for a closed room, nor would I recommend me for the nursery. Give me a hall for happiness to reign.
Otherwise, I just might return as a quite disagreeable warthog.