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.
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 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.
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.