Spring pinks

Pink froth of Prunus Awanui  currently at its peak

I am a big fan of pink and not just in flowers, but my theme this week came because of two pink plants in bloom.

The balls of viburnum are at the front of the vase

The first is one of the Virburnum × burkwoodii cultivars. I am not sure which one it is but we have it planted beside the drive where it is largely anonymous for 51 weeks of the year. In the 52nd week, it opens its flowers to rounded balls of exquisite fragrance – strong enough to hang in the air several metres away. We would be lucky to get a full 7 days out of it but I am sure it does better in other climates – it probably wants it drier and colder. I picked a few balls to put in a vase with pink bluebells and late flowers of Mark’s Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’ (which still has flowers and has had since late March). It was lovely but the viburnum flowers promptly died overnight. They last longer than that on the bush, though not by much.

The view with our morning cuppa

Magnolia Serene

A prodigious carpet of petals beneath

The second pink to give me daily delight is Magnolia ‘Serene’ – bred by Felix and the marker of the end of the deciduous magnolia season for us. As we sit having our morning cup of tea, it is framed in the corner window of our bedroom. Not this morning, though. With daylight saving, it was a bit dark at 7am to see it so that may herald the end of that particular seasonal pleasure, too.

Rhododendron Coconut Ice

I am not the world’s biggest fan of the ball truss type of rhododendron but ‘Coconut Ice’ was looking particularly pretty earlier this week. Sadly, it is browning off already. Flowering is an ephemeral pleasure. Mark observes that the delight of rhododendrons lies in watching the buds for a long period of time before finally opening over a period of a couple of weeks. There is then a week, maybe 10 days, of full glory – sometimes cut shorter by an ill-timed storm – and then it is time to dead head it. In practice, we don’t dead head all our rhododendrons – just those that set large amounts of seed which can weaken the plant over time.

My rhododendron preference is for those with looser trusses that are sometimes so abundant that they can cover the plant.

Rhododendron Anne Teese

It took a couple of goes for Mark to remember the name of this beauty – Rhododendron Anne Teese. It is an Australian-bred hybrid coming from the Teese family (in this case the father, Arnold) who are well known through their nursery, Yamina Rare Plants in Monbulk, Victoria. Mark thinks it was named for the mother, presumably married to Arnold. Whatever, it is very lovely and I would be happy to have it named for me. It is a Maddenia hybrid (R.ciliicalyx x R.formosum) so scented and with a heavier petal, more weather resistant than ‘Charisma’, a similar R.ciliicalyx selection that used to be widely available here.

Rhododendron Floral Gift in a swathe of bluebells

With one notable exception – Magnolia ‘Felix Jury’ – Mark doesn’t name his cultivars for people. Or when he does, it is by oblique reference at best so an in-house tribute only. So this, his most fragrant rhododendron is ‘Floral Gift’, not ‘Abbie Jury’. It takes a while to get established but it is lovely and can be seen performing really well at Pukeiti Rhododendron Gardens. There are a whole lot of hybrids in this genre of scented, white flushed pink loose trusses; the best known is ‘Fragrantissimum’.  What sets ‘Floral Gift’ apart is the large flower and the very heavy petal texture giving it good weather resistance.

The reason I often reference weather resistance is because our spring flowering coincides with the spring equinox when we get the most unsettled weather, as evidenced this weekend – which, for us, means very heavy rain and wind which can wipe out fragile flowers in a matter of hours. And a few more pinks to finish off – this is one of the Dendrobium ‘Bardo Rose’ group of orchids which thrive in our open woodland areas. They flower for a long time and the scale is right for detailed woodland plantings – by which I mean, not as big and dominant as the cymbidiums.

Fairy Magnolia Blush

Fairy Magnolia Blush has a good, long flowering season, currently at its most charming stage of peak bloom. More lilac than pink, it is pleione orchid time. This is another group from the orchid family that thrives in pretty laissez-faire woodland conditions (in other words, benign neglect) but the flowering season is much shorter than the dendrobium ‘Bardo Roses’.

And the final bar of pink can be left to the evergreen azaleas. We have so many different ones that we get many months in flower but they are currently at their showiest.

11 thoughts on “Spring pinks

  1. elainebolitho

    A lovely post thank you Abbie – what a wonderful collection of pink flowers you have. Interesting that your Perfume Princess is still flowering – ours (pillar variety) started in May but is now busy ‘bushing up.’ We are delighted with the way it is doing what we wanted it to do – fill in the space from a bush destroyed by Wgtn City Council diggers last year when they replaced a broken sewer pipe (unfortunately in a lien across our property!) We really like our Perfume Princess so a big thanks to Mark for developing it.


    Elaine Bolitho

  2. rosef1

    hi i read your sping pink artilce and i think your Prunus Awanui is a Yoshino or not? I can’t find a seller readily online (i’m in Canberra so my eyes pricked up when you thought that your prunus might like it colder and drier) but i know Yoshinos are available in Aus though it’s difficult to identify the cultivar – well it was for me because i bought two (i thought) from a reputable wholesaler who in turn bought them from a reputable grower and one def isn’t a Yoshino, the wholesaler has even agreed, and the other is a white flowering with red pink vein streaked centres but looks nothing like yours where even the buds are very pink.

    Anyway just wondering whether you’d call yours a Yoshino cherry ie Prunus x yedoensis , or not.

    Thanks again. I enjoy the columns and the pics! Hope it’s not too annoying to get an email riffing off them.



    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      It was a selection made locally – a chance seedling, so its parentage is uncertain but thought to be subhirtella, not yedoensis. It is widely grown and sold in NZ but I don’t know that it is overseas.

  3. Pippa

    Thank you abbie for the most uplifting read this month. Most gardeners know a spade is a spade, and appreciate down to earth rhetoric, so refreshing. Pippa

  4. Tim Dutton

    We are very fond of pink too (in the garden) and the view from our window whenever we sit down for a meal is a part of the garden that is mostly pink flowered. Pride of place there is a short hedge of Mark’s Camellia ‘Fairy Blush’, which has displayed its pink flowers ever since May and still has many buds that haven’t opened. An extra bonus with that hedge is that for the last two years it has been visited during the flowering season by a bellbird that darts from one flower to another sipping the nectar treat within.
    Our biggest pink (actually pink and purple) display at the moment is Felix’s Magnolia ‘Apollo’. In full flower right now, but as overnight we had our heaviest frost in 2 years I think by this afternoon it will be a big display of pink, purple and brown. I’m just hoping the Wisteria buds have escaped serious damage, but it is too early to tell.
    Lovely to see your ‘Awanui’ in flower so well. Ours seemed less pink froth than usual this year, perhaps it is getting more open as it grows? Anyway, it is pretty much over now, such a short display.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      ‘Fairy Blush’ is very good, is it not? Interesting that your Apollo was still in full flight when ours is well and truly done. Are you sure your Awanui is not being taken over by witches broom? It is very prone to that and would explaing the lack of flower power this year. Identifiable by dense, twiggy growth that fails to bloom.

      1. Tim Dutton

        Magnolias presumably flower based very much on temperature: it is a lot colder here in winter and early spring than where you are. On the other hand the flowering cherries seem to open around the same time.
        I had a thorough look at Awanui yesterday. No sign of witches broom. I suspect it has been related to weather/climate differences from the norm over the last 12 months coupled with several days of gales just as the blossom was supposed to be hitting its stride. At least we got to see quite a nice show in spite of that. The Wisteria has, as I feared, almost completely lost its flower buds though, as 95% are hanging limp and lifeless now. It happened once before: an ill-timed frost meant a spring without Wisteria flowers. Such is gardening.

  5. Paddy Tobin

    Everything is looking splendidly beautiful and it is surely a wonderful bonus that magnolia petals are so attractive even when on the ground.

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