Sometimes life can throw up little surprises. I saw a clip from Coronation Street come down my social media, a tribute to the victims of the 2017 bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. Gail Platt and Eileen Grimshaw were laying flowers at a bench commemorating Martyn and other victims. Martyn Hett, a real life victim of the bombing and a great Corrie fan reportedly had a tattoo of Deidre Barlow. It is a poignant moment on that long running television soap opera.
What caught my attention was the plant of Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’ in prime position in the scene. Ha! A little bit of Tikorangi on Corrie! ‘Yellow Wave’ is one of the earliest of Felix Jury’s plant breeding efforts and arguably the most widely grown internationally, although not so often attributed to the breeder. All one minute 21 seconds of the clip can be found on Facebook here and on YouTube here.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, we know the phormiums as flax in English or harakeke in Maori. They grow widely throughout the country but ‘Yellow Wave’ was one of the very first compact. variegated cultivars to be released on the market. It wasn’t released by Felix. He was never a nurseryman and he never received a single cent for the plant. This was back in the late 1960s or early 1970s before there was any provision to claim plant variety rights or a plant patent over a new cultivar. We have always quipped that such is its international popularity, had he received just one cent per plant sold, he would have been a rich man. It received an Award of Garden Merit from the UK Royal Horticultural Society.
In this country, the flaxes tend to get a spotting on the foliage that rather detracts from their looks but they keep very clean foliage in other climates. Maybe this is why we prefer the newer dark burgundy and black phormium cultivars as garden plants? Also, we do not have a love affair with variegated plants.
Felix went on to breed with astelias and cordylines in preference to the phormiums and Cordyline ‘Red Fountain’ continues to be very successful internationally. It is likely that in total numbers produced, sold and grown, ‘Yellow Wave’ eclipses that and we have often seen it growing overseas. I just did not expect to see it on Coronation Street.