As a result of a decision of the Board of Trustees in 1939, three magnolias were selected for the Fifth Avenue garden. The two trees on the lower tier are Saucer Magnolias (Magnolia soulangeana) and the species on the upper tier by the flagpole is a Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata). Considered to be some of the largest in the New York area, and certainly the most grand in the setting in which they are displayed, they maintain their balance by yearly pruning, which sustains their sprawling shape in proportion to the long limestone facade of The Frick Collection.
Every year, as spring approaches, calls flood The Frick Collection's switchboard asking when the magnolias will bloom and whether their early blossoms will be safe from frost — something no one can ever know. Having reached a grand age, these three trees on Fifth Avenue are without doubt the finest in the city. The magnolias have become as much a symbol of the Frick as its paintings, and, like the subject of Ingres's Comtesse d'Haussonville, they are as tender. It is the transience of all things — of blossoms, trees, and human lives and their effects — that the magnolia blossoms suggest.