1) From big picture gardening to small picture detail – Abbie’s column.
2) On the case with Ulmus “Jacqueline Hillier” in Plant Collector this week. It is not a dwarf grower as we were originally led to believe by somebody or other (probably the person we sourced the original plant from in NZ).
3) Grow it Yourself – spinach this week. Silver beet for refined tastes?
4) In the garden this fortnight – the latest instalment of our garden diary as written for the Weekend Gardener where we reference seeding and spreading plant pests (yes! Campanulata cherries, bangalow palms and Daphne bholua).
In days gone by, the Jury name used to be synonymous with camellias. These days it is magnolias and we can chart the year by repeated requests for diagnosis. In late winter and early spring, it is always: “Help. My magnolia buds look fine but then the flower opens all distorted and misshapen.” In this country, the answer is that a possum has developed a taste for the buds and chewed out the centre at an earlier stage. They can do this without it being obvious from below. The solution is to catch the critter – we favour high velocity lead, as Mark says.
In spring and summer, the question is: “Help. The leaves on my magnolia tree are opening all yellow, distorted and sick-looking on one side. What can I do?” The answer is that somebody has used a hormone spray – usually a common lawn spray – at the time when the tree is just breaking dormancy and there is nothing you can do except wait to see if the tree can recover. Oh, and be more careful next year (or ask your neighbour to) because the slightest hint of hormone spray drift at the wrong time does major damage. Don’t spray your lawn in spring if you have magnolias nearby.
This summer, we have had repeated requests for information about alleged abnormal growths and cankers which have appeared. SEED PODS, dear Reader. There is nothing sinister. The plant has set seed and you have just noticed it. Some plants set a fair amount of seed, some none at all (they are sterile) and some only set seed occasionally. And yes, you can grow them but the chances of getting something exciting and better than the parent are extremely remote. And you need space because it may take many, many years before the seedlings get to flowering size – by which time they can be large trees. When the pod eventually turns brown and dry, it starts to crack open and release the red seed. For better germination, we rot that red coating off before planting the inner black kernel.
Out of season summer flowers on magnolias are often mentioned too. There is nothing unusual about this phenomenon. I wrote about it in Magnolia Diary 14. It is in the breeding, basically. And they are bonus flowers, not a major display.
The Tikorangi weather report is better this week – some sunny, warm, summery weather at long last though the lower than average night temperatures and sunshine hours mean the water temperature in our swimming pool remains too low to entice us in. The pool is unheated and would normally be a pleasant 26 degrees celsius by now, maybe more but it is not even close. The only consolation is that the entire country is having a cooler than usual summer. It is always nice to know that one is not alone. At least the auratum lilies don’t mind and flower on beautifully.