Magnolia Diary number 7, 26 August 2009

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A short but fierce storm last night was a good reminder why we value firmer flowers and thicker petals in our magnolias. Nothing floppy and loose was ever going to survive hail, strong wind gusts and 3.2cm of torrential rain in a very short space of time. We were relieved this fine morning to discover that the main casualty was to shorten the season of plants which are past their peak already. Iolanthe came through almost unscathed, despite flowers which measure up to 25cm across.

The original Iolanthe this morning

The original Iolanthe this morning

Of all the magnolias here, the original Iolanthe remains the one with most impact at its peak. Mind you, that is a combination of size and location and a weekend visitor asked us to consider the effect Magnolia Felix Jury will have when it reaches that size. We hadn’t quite thought of that.

The original Iolanthe grows half way down our house driveway and now reaches around ten metres high and ten metres across. The leaf and petal drop is prodigious but the impact of Iolanthe in full flower is so astonishing that we do not mind the clean up. Nor has Mark complained about having to move the vegetable garden due to the increasing shade. The tree takes precedence.

Magnolia Iolanthe after the storm

Magnolia Iolanthe after the storm

Back around 1960 when Felix did his first run of magnolia hybrids, he heeled them into the vegetable garden, planning to plant them out to beautify the local town of Waitara. But Iolanthe flowered and the very first flowering was so astonishing that the plant has remained in situ ever since. Iolanthe is soulangiana Lennei x Mark Jury and here was the full sized campbellii flower on a very young plant. The colour was not quite the pink Felix wanted but it was a huge breeding step. Iolanthe also flowers down the stem so, of all the magnolias here, it has one of the longest flowering seasons stretching over many weeks. As with many of the soulangiana types, Iolanthe will put up some summer flowers as well.

For the record, as we understand it, the magnolia sold as Eleanor May is a reject Iolanthe sister seedling. It was used as root stock at Duncan and Davies because it was easy to strike, vigorous and healthy and it was referred to as Mark One. Back in those days, Duncan and Davies made an effort to select clonal root stock best suited to individual varieties but such attention to detail is a thing of the past. At some point Duncan and Davies sent out some failed grafts under the name of Iolanthe whereas they were in fact root stock. The person who named this cultivar bought it from a garden centre, noticed when it flowered that it was different to Iolanthe so took it upon himself to name it. In fact he had no right to name it. He only owned the one plant he purchased; he did not own the cultivar itself so it was not his to name. On its day it is a good performer, as many of our sister seedlings, reject cultivars and also rans are good on their day but it is inferior to Iolanthe and we do not consider it should have been named. We take particular exception to Eleanor May ever being attributed as a Jury hybrid. As far as we are concerned, it is escaped rootstock.