Farewell poor Felix. We knew thee well.

The Prunus campanulata, that is. We farewelled the person – Mark’s Dad – back in 1997. The magnolia named by Mark for him continues to thrive here and we have several specimens planted around the property, including the original plant. The prunus – we have just the one and it may not pull through.

A definite lean. In fact it has fallen over, though the root system is still in the ground.

I noticed two days ago that the tree had a major lean. On closer inspection, it became clear that only the brick wall was holding it up and I was a bit worried about whether it could bring down the wall. Mark set about removing the weight that was pulling it to one side. He will cut the tree back hard and we will look at putting a prop in place but we doubt it will survive.

Prunus ‘Felix Jury’ is the reddest campanulata that we know of

Prunus campanulata ‘Felix Jury’ was named by the nursery Duncan and Davies for Felix, because he was the originator of this selection. It is simply not done to name a plant after oneself. It is still the deepest carmine red bloom on the NZ market and is much beloved by our native tui. Being a smaller growing, upright form, it has been popular as a garden plant. Unfortunately, it is not sterile so it sets seed which makes it problematic in areas where campanulata has become a noxious weed. We do a lot of weeding out of seedling cherries here because the birds spread the seed far and wide.

We will try and keep a plant going as part of the Jury collection. Hopefully this tree will stay alive until late spring so Mark can take some cuttings off it. The optimum time for taking cuttings from deciduous plants in our conditions is December.

Native tui feeding from a campanulata cherry but it looks too pink to be ‘Felix Jury”

I do not think I have ever told the story of the naming of Camellia ‘Julie Felix’. It would have been very poor form for Felix to name it for himself but he really liked it. Enter Julie Felix, the American-born folk singer who made her name in Britain in the late 1960s and early 1970s. She was touring NZ and doing a concert in New Plymouth. Felix thought that naming the camellia Julie Felix was a subtle play on names that would suit his purposes. Besides, though he took no interest in music, he liked her songs.

“You can’t do that without her permission,” protested his wife, Mimosa. She was a great woman for the telephone was Mimosa, so she tracked down that Julie Felix was staying at the Devon Hotel in New Plymouth and tried to call her. Whoever took the call – almost certainly the Devon receptionist – wouldn’t put her through to the singer’s phone so Mimosa explained (no doubt at great length) that she was trying to contact her for permission to name a camellia after her. “I am sure that will be fine,” said the person at the other end, very kindly.

So there we are. Permission was sought for this name and consent was give – by the receptionist at the Devon Hotel. I doubt that the singer ever knew there was a camellia bearing her name although it never was named for her. In a typically convoluted fashion, Felix was naming it for himself.

Ironically, I can’t even find a photograph of it, even though we have a big plant close to the house. I must set that right this winter when it comes into bloom again. It never achieved the status of his better known camellia cultivars like ‘Water Lily’ and ‘Dreamboat’ and ‘Mimosa Jury’. But Felix clearly rated it highly.

15 thoughts on “Farewell poor Felix. We knew thee well.

  1. Dale Lethbridge

    Good morning Abby, Always sad when an old tree friend dies. Do you think the lack of rain has weakened some magnolias. I can see an old one at my gate, about 80 years old, is looking very stressed as the roots seem very superficial. There has been so little rain all summer i wonder if it will survive. A spade into the ground still shows very little penetration of our meagre rainfall here in the Waikato. Most of my Hydrangeas were dried out by Christmas, well those not under trees, so i am removing them as I cant see summers getting wetter sadly. I will gradually try to convert my garden to species that are not so needy.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Plants can certainly get very stressed in extreme conditions, though mulching can mitigate drying out. Magnolias still grow well in dry climates but an unusually severe drought with an exposed or shallow root system is a problem. I think you are wise to garden to the prevailing conditions. To me, relying on watering your garden is generally a sign that you are growing the wrong plants for your conditions.

  2. tonytomeo

    My colleague tried breeding rhododendrons only a few times over the past many years that he grew them, but had a way of pairing rather odd parents. I would have been very pleased with a nice white rhododendron. We grew only a few whites, and the only two that were pure white were rather unappealing. (One had round trusses that looked like baseballs. The other had spectacular trusses on flimsy stems that could not support them.) He paired ‘Phyllis Korn’ (which is a creamy or yellowish white) with one of its relatives, whose name I can not remember. I referred to the seed as ‘White Trash’. A few germinated, but were promptly eaten by mice.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Pollinating plants is not difficult. Picking good potential parents with a goal in mind and then knowing how to handle the seed is a different ball game altogether.

      1. tonytomeo

        Like parenting?
        Well, anyway, I am sure that he knew what he was doing. Both parents were much more popular than the cultivars that I would have selected. I just didn’t like them. I enjoy growing things, but have never been good with what make a good cultivar. Even in the landscapes, I must get someone else to select cultivars.

  3. Elaine Elizabeth Bolitho

    Thank you for another interesting post. I love your picture of the tui dining at the Jury Restaurant! Your mention of Dreamboat jogged my memory – I have been meaning to ask what kind of food does Dreamboat prefer – ours is in its third season here and has never really thrived – hasn’t bushed up or grown taller, although the few flowers it does produce are so beautiful. We planted it to replace a port wine magnolia which rarely produced flowers, and hoped for another bushy camellia to eventually match the rest of those in the garden (about 18 all up.)
    I have another question too – what to do about fungi? This year we have an infestation of fungi all over the garden being progressively replanted since the Wellington City Council Wastewater Dept dug up our ferny bank in April last year. They replaced the soil, and then topped it off with mulch and I suspect the mulch is the origin of these nasty wee things growing over most of the mulched area. We are concerned that just left they will drop their spores and perpetuate themselves whenever we have a damp time. Nota popular idea! We really want a bank with ferns and the South Island Ringa ringa raised from seed bought on Stewart Island last year. Please do you have any ideas about (a) what the fungi are and (b) how we should treat them.
    Thy first appear as spherical near white blobs, then grow stems with fawny coloured spores as the blobs become more umbrella shaped. Tops also change to a fawny colour, then become almost transparent .
    I can’t copy pix into this message so will email them.
    Your comments would beappreciated.
    Elaine Bolitho

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      It sounds like a problem with the plant that you have not growing away strongly. Try any acid or general fertiliser – not one that is rich in lime or nitrogen – and mulch with compost. If it doesn’t thrive this spring and leap into growth this spring, then maybe replace it. There is no point in fertilising at this time of the year – the plant won’t take it up. So much now and apply fertiliser in spring. Good luck.

  4. Elaine Bolitho

    Hi Abbie,

    Here are the pix which I couldn’t attached to the message.

    To clarify the pix –

    DSCN 6065 Looking down the bank which was excavated/refilled last year.(Steps at bottom)

    DSCN6064 Looking up the bank from the steps

    DSCN6061 close up

    DSC6063 – scale

    Please do you have any helpful suggestions about how to get rid of the wee beasties?

    Thanks and blessings,

    Elaine E Bolitho PhD

    56 Box Hill, Wellington 6035

    Home Phone (04) 479-5352

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      The photos aren’t showing, Elaine, but the fungi are likely to be related to the wood mulch and should disappear as the mulch rots down. They are not generally a problem.

  5. Jason

    I’m trying to confirm a sterile form of the campanulata. I’ve read through all your articals but you don’t mention the “superba” it’s advertised as sterile so I have just planted one to attract Tui near the house but we live next to native bush and I’m worried I’ve planted a weed. Do you know about this one “superba” I have seen the Felix Jury advertised as sterile on a large online nursery website too so don’t know what to trust. Cheers Jason

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      As far as I know, campanulata superba is certainly NOT sterile and I certainly wouldn’t recommend planting it by native bush. Very poor advice from nurseries selling it.

      1. Jason

        Thanks for the info. We are in Northland too they happily sent it up here. It’s a shame nurseries can’t get this right. I bought the tree for my 7 year old doughter we planted it together now I’m going to have to rip it out and replace it. I thought I had done the right thing and checked first. I will put in a pink cloud instead you seem quite certain they are sterile, are they still as good for Tui? Cheers Jason

  6. kiwiwatcher

    Hi, the Northland regional council contacted me yesterday and ordered me to cut down by 6 amazing Felix jury! I am in shock. How do I take cuttings? Can you please call me on 0274764430. My name is Julian

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Wrong season, sorry. Deciduous cuttings need to be taken when the new growth has hardened – usually in the last couple of weeks of December and early January. You are better to start again and buy plants. Felix Jury is still available commercially, if you do a net search, and just banned in Northland, as far as I know. Disappointing for you, but understandable on the part of the regional council there.

  7. kiwiwatcher

    I want to take cuttings for my property in Auckland so need to do this before losing my trees in Northland.

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