The magnoliafication of our local town

Our flagship magnolia, ‘Felix Jury’

Back in our nursery days, we used to send our reject plants down to be given away, sometimes sold for just a dollar or two, at a local op shop that a good friend was closely involved with. There are always reject plants that don’t make the grade to sell – usually due to being poorly shaped or sometimes over-produced –  and it seemed a good solution. Our local town of Waitara is what is often politely described as ‘lower socio economic’. There isn’t a lot of spare cash in the community and no local plant retailers so we saw it as a means of encouraging planting in an area where most people wouldn’t buy plants.

In the early days, we had more reject plants of Magnolia Felix Jury than we would have liked so quite a few of those went down to be dispersed and I quipped at the time that if only a quarter of them grew, they would make their mark. The magnoliafication of Waitara, I used to describe it.

Iolanthe to the left, Felix to to the right

This year was the first year I have really started to notice Felix in bloom locally. It is unmistakeable with its enormous flowers so I drove down just a few streets, Felix-spotting, when I went to the supermarket yesterday. I doubt that the locals know that it was bred locally, named for a long-term resident and is now our flagship magnolia internationally but that doesn’t matter. It is just pretty spectacular and will continue to get better year on year. Magnolias are long-lived plants if they are allowed to be. I was a week too late to catch them with the best colour, but you can see what I mean.

Best colour – it fades out with age as the season progresses

We can get deeper and richer colour here than in some other parts of the world. Why? We don’t know whether soils, seasonal weather or climate affect it. All Mark is willing to say is that the stronger the plant is growing, the better the colour it achieves. I am loathe to recommend piling on the fertiliser; we never do and we don’t think it is good practice. We plant well, keep them mulched and will feed with compost if a plant needs a boost. Other gardeners like to manage feeding differently but the advice from the breeder is to get your plants established and growing well and you may find the colours are richer.

Next year, I shall get around a week or two earlier to catch the local plants in peak bloom. By then, I will have canvassed local friends to find the location of more trees.

Poor light and nearly finished, but another local Felix

5 thoughts on “The magnoliafication of our local town

  1. dinahmow

    I believe in a good, sound start for all things. In poor, thin soils (especially those prone to annual leaching in storms) I like to use good compost and, if that runs out (always, in my case!), I use top quality potting mix, added to my compost. And I’m an advocate for much, too.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      We always recommend enriching the soil and mulching to reduce leaching of bare soil rather than reaching for proprietary fertilisers (which come packed in heavy duty plastic and are too often made from either Saharan super phosphate or nitrogen produced from the petrochemical industry). We should be mindful, as gardeners, of enhancing nature, not trashing it to produce a result that pleases us.

  2. Kerry Hand

    Here on the Kawarau river bank I am planting in gravel. Rainfall is desert level, and we have severe frost and great heat. (but Central Otago weather is wonderful) I would love to plant Felix, but I just don’t think it would work.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      It copes with the extreme heat of Australia but the frosts would be the killer. Besides, in your magnificent landscape, I am not sure that magnolias would sit so well. You are in one part of the country where, to my eyes at least, gardens that are designed and planted to sit at ease in the wider landscape are more harmonious. I think you are right to leave this one for lusher climes and tamer landscapes.

  3. tonytomeo

    Mr. Oliver, who convinced us to grow magnolias (when we really shouldn’t have) wanted them planted everywhere in Menlo Park where he lived. Several did end up in parks and public spaces, particularly in nearby Palo Alto. Unfortunately, some, as well as the Michelias, were planted in medians of the Oregon Expressway. They are very pretty in bloom, but no one enjoys them close up like they do in the parks.

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