I added a postscript to last week’s post about blind pruning camellias. After comments on that post, I added in chainsaw pruning tips (cutting back overgrown camellias to ground level or just above) and a word of caution about hygiene with cutting tools. You can find it at the end of the post if you are contemplating more extreme, less refined pruning.
Today’s post is heavy on photos. Magnolia photos to celebrate the season. I haven’t sat down before and collated images to show the parents of our named cultivars, lined up alongside their progeny. When Felix started crossing magnolias back in the early 1960s, he wanted to see if he could get the cup and saucer flower form of M. campbellii, that would flower from a younger age, on plants that would stay smaller and with more colours.
He didn’t start with many options. There were not many different magnolias available in NZ at the time – nothing like today’s range – but he had a unique tool in his kit. That was the magnolia he named for his youngest son, Mark Jury.
‘Mark Jury’ came to him from Hillier Nurseries as a seedling of ‘Lanarth’ (M.campbellii var mollicomata ‘Lanarth’, to be precise), costing 18 shillings which was quite a lot back in the 1950s. When it flowered, it was not ‘Lanarth’. Discussions with Hilliers – slow discussions by hand-written letters as was the way back then – determined that it was most likely to be a cross between ‘Lanarth’ and M. sargentiana robusta. It proved to be an important breeder parent for him.
Magnolia ‘Lennei’ alba crossed onto ‘Mark Jury’ was one of his first efforts. (For the technically minded, ‘Lennei’ is more correctly M. X soulangeana ‘Lennei’, itself a cross of M.denudata and M.liliiflora).
It resulted in the beautiful ‘Athene’
and ‘Milky Way’.
Swapping to the pink form of ‘Lennei’ crossed on to ‘Mark Jury’, he raised and named
and Iolanthe. This particular cultivar is one of the enduring stars in Felix’s collection.
The picture on his use of M.liliiflora is not as clear. He had the dark form of M. liliiflora ‘Nigra’, a paler pink form of the same species and, it seems, a liliiflora hybrid in the garden and over time, he grew somewhat hazy in his recollections of which plant in the garden he used for which cross. One or other form of M liliiflora crossed with ‘Lanarth’ gave two notable results.
The first was ‘Apollo’.
The second was the colour breakthrough in ‘Vulcan’ that paved the way for a multitude of magnolias into the future, getting to the red tones.
Again, an unspecified form of M.liliifora but crossed this time on his old favourite ‘Mark Jury’ resulted in one named cultivar of note.
When Mark moved in to the next generation, starting by using Felix’s hybrids, it was his cross between ‘Atlas’ and ‘Vulcan’ that closed the circle his father started.
Magnolia ‘Felix Jury’ was what Felix had been wanting to see if he could reach and he lived long enough to see it happen. It does of course have ‘Mark Jury’ in its parentage through ‘Atlas’. To be honest, the flowers do not always look this red. I took this photo last week and we admit that it is ‘Felix’ at its most sublime.
Mark has had one notable success with his yellow crosses – ‘Yellow Bird’ with ‘Iolanthe’. ‘Yellow Bird’ is not evergreen – it just flowers at the same time as its new leaves appear in our climate and its flowers are small but a good colour. He was pleased to get a smaller growing tree that flowers on bare wood and that has been named ‘Honey Tulip.
‘Honey Tulip’ is a good stepping stone. Mark’s dream is to get the equivalent of ‘Iolanthe’ – a large cup and saucer bloom in pure yellow. Whether he has enough years left to achieve this is as yet unknown. It may fall to the next generation of hybridists to realise that vision.