Category Archives: Magnolia diary

Magnolia Diary 9, 1 September 2009

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Iolanthe yesterday morning after the storm - the petal drop was prodigious

Iolanthe yesterday morning after the storm - the petal drop was prodigious

Another fierce storm here two nights ago sorted out the durable magnolias from the fly by nighters. Poor old Mark Jury has gone for the year. He only looked sensational for a week. But his progeny are faring better. It is pretty remarkable how much petal drop we can get from Iolanthe and still have a tree full of flowers. The winds blew the petals over 40 metres away. These are short, sharp incidents of storms which last a few hours only but the strong winds and torrential rain certainly causes damage to magnolia blooms. Viewed from a distance, Felix Jury looks great but seen close up, there is quite a bit of damage and bruising and it is the same story on Iolanthe, Milky Way, Lotus and Athene. Cultivars which flower down the stems (as opposed to the short lived stars which set flower buds only on the tips so there is one mass flowering and then it is over) extend the season and there is a second chance to open undamaged blooms. Our white stellata is bravely flowering on through all conditions. Suishoren can blow apart rather easily whereas Manchu Fan takes pretty well all the bad weather in its stride.

Burgundy Star opening its flowers

Burgundy Star opening its flowers

Burgundy Star is the last of our reds to open and the original plant in our carpark is nowhere near to peaking yet. It is a very dark red and on the tree appears to have lost much of the magenta tone which can dominate the other reds. Mark is still hoping that he will get a good plant which is pure red (and we have some hopeful candidates on the track) but in the meantime Burgundy Star makes a very deep red pillar. It being three quarter liliiflora nigra, we are hopeful it may have more hardiness than some of our other selections.

The Snow Flurry series flower on

The Snow Flurry series flower on

Serene is the last flagship magnolia to flower here and is just opening the first flowers. None of the American yellows are open yet, but these mostly flower too late for us and are breaking into leaf at the same time. The doltsopa hybrid Snow Flurry series of michelias flower on and are wonderfully rewarding. The season on the michelias lasts considerably longer and we have many to follow. Alas we have to be very circumspect about what we show of new breeding lest it cut across the chance to patent later so this diary will not be showing the flowerings which make us most excited here.

Magnolia Diary number 8, 29 August 2009

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Mark Jury in full flower

Mark Jury in full flower

Back in the 1950s when Felix Jury was establishing the garden here, one of the plants he coveted was Magnolia Lanarth. He ordered it from Hilliers in the UK. History is a little vague as to what number and form the plant material took (scions or plants) but it included a seedling which, when it flowered after a number of years, was clearly not the solid purple flower of the chosen cultivar. No, instead it was very large and pale lavender pink and white. Enquiries from Hilliers established that it was most likely a cross between Lanarth and sargentiana robusta. Felix did manage to establish true Lanarth (Magnolia diary entries 1 and 4 have photos of the splendid specimen after fifty years), but the chance seedling proved to be the jump start for a breeding programme. Felix subsequently named it Mark Jury, for his youngest son and it has been distributed in the trade both in New Zealand and overseas. We have never promoted it widely ourselves. Although it makes a splendid large tree for a park, we think the next generation are superior garden plants.

Athene

Athene

From Magnolia Mark Jury came Iolanthe (ref Diary 7), Milky Way, Lotus, Athene and Atlas (all involving forms of lennei) which are all flowering now. Apollo too is flowering (this one does not have Mark in its lineage, being thought instead to be a liliiflora nigra hybrid crossed with Lanarth). Picking favourites is all about taste. Iolanthe has an exceptionally long flowering season and a large flower with good colour here (though we were disappointed at how it looked in Switzerland at Eisenhuts and it does not appear to be the stand out performer in the UK and Europe that it is here). Lotus has a perfect form in pure cream but can take 5 or 6 years to settle into good flowering. Athene has blooms which in our eyes are simply beautiful. Atlas had the largest flowers imaginable until rivaled by Felix. Apollo is our best purple so far. Milky Way is just an all round top performer. What more can we say? Felix’s legacy is still remarkable.

Magnolia Apollo, Felix's best purple

Magnolia Apollo, Felix's best purple

Magnolia Diary number 7, 26 August 2009

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A short but fierce storm last night was a good reminder why we value firmer flowers and thicker petals in our magnolias. Nothing floppy and loose was ever going to survive hail, strong wind gusts and 3.2cm of torrential rain in a very short space of time. We were relieved this fine morning to discover that the main casualty was to shorten the season of plants which are past their peak already. Iolanthe came through almost unscathed, despite flowers which measure up to 25cm across.

The original Iolanthe this morning

The original Iolanthe this morning

Of all the magnolias here, the original Iolanthe remains the one with most impact at its peak. Mind you, that is a combination of size and location and a weekend visitor asked us to consider the effect Magnolia Felix Jury will have when it reaches that size. We hadn’t quite thought of that.

The original Iolanthe grows half way down our house driveway and now reaches around ten metres high and ten metres across. The leaf and petal drop is prodigious but the impact of Iolanthe in full flower is so astonishing that we do not mind the clean up. Nor has Mark complained about having to move the vegetable garden due to the increasing shade. The tree takes precedence.

Magnolia Iolanthe after the storm

Magnolia Iolanthe after the storm

Back around 1960 when Felix did his first run of magnolia hybrids, he heeled them into the vegetable garden, planning to plant them out to beautify the local town of Waitara. But Iolanthe flowered and the very first flowering was so astonishing that the plant has remained in situ ever since. Iolanthe is soulangiana Lennei x Mark Jury and here was the full sized campbellii flower on a very young plant. The colour was not quite the pink Felix wanted but it was a huge breeding step. Iolanthe also flowers down the stem so, of all the magnolias here, it has one of the longest flowering seasons stretching over many weeks. As with many of the soulangiana types, Iolanthe will put up some summer flowers as well.

For the record, as we understand it, the magnolia sold as Eleanor May is a reject Iolanthe sister seedling. It was used as root stock at Duncan and Davies because it was easy to strike, vigorous and healthy and it was referred to as Mark One. Back in those days, Duncan and Davies made an effort to select clonal root stock best suited to individual varieties but such attention to detail is a thing of the past. At some point Duncan and Davies sent out some failed grafts under the name of Iolanthe whereas they were in fact root stock. The person who named this cultivar bought it from a garden centre, noticed when it flowered that it was different to Iolanthe so took it upon himself to name it. In fact he had no right to name it. He only owned the one plant he purchased; he did not own the cultivar itself so it was not his to name. On its day it is a good performer, as many of our sister seedlings, reject cultivars and also rans are good on their day but it is inferior to Iolanthe and we do not consider it should have been named. We take particular exception to Eleanor May ever being attributed as a Jury hybrid. As far as we are concerned, it is escaped rootstock.

Magnolia Diary number 6, 23 August 2009

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The view from the corner today

The view from the corner today

Winter may have struck early and cold here this year, but at the other end of the season a magical spring has arrived early. With no wind and fine sunny days, temperatures are now reaching up to 18 degrees celsius and the flowering is terrific. The early campbelliis have been and gone, as has Lanarth, Vulcan is just past its peak, sprengeri diva is flopping, sargentiana robusta and Sweetheart are at their peak. Felix Jury looks fantastic as does Black Tulip. The soulangeanas and mid season hybrids are all opening, including our newest release, Burgundy Star.

Mark Jury - first flowers this season

Mark Jury – first flowers this season

Felix Jury’s main output using the magnolia he named Mark Jury are all in the early stages of opening, as is Mark. Manchu Fan is opening – this hybrid performs really well here for us in the reliable, smaller growing white goblet class. Ruby, planted next to Manchu, is pretty ho hum here, as is Rustica Rubra. But then we tend to prefer solid colour in our magnolia flowers, rather than the pale insides to petals and that is just a matter of taste.

Starwars is opening on our roadside boundary (our road verges are astonishingly beautiful at this time of the year). Starwars was bred by the late Os Blumhardt and we were enormously impressed with how good it looked in the UK and Europe. In fact we wished we could claim it as ours. But here it is best in its bud stage. While it flowers very well, the tree is a rather large grower and the flowers lack good form when fully open and the petals lack substance. It was far more a stand-out plant in Europe than it is here.

The also-rans can be as impressive as any named variety on their day, and if they aren’t they get chainsawed out PDQ. You can’t name everything and to get a magnolia on the market means there are many (very many) reject seedlings. We keep chuckling at Baby Tulip which is basically Black Tulip shrunk down in size to be a shrubby stellata type of bush covered in baby dark tulip flowers. It is not good enough to name and release, but it is a little cutie which is a contrast to the enormous flowers opening on the likes of Iolanthe, Atlas and Felix Jury.

Referred to here as Baby Tulip

Referred to here as Baby Tulip

Magnolia Diary number 5, 19 August 2009

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Magnolia Felix Jury

Magnolia Felix Jury

When Magnolia Felix Jury first flowered, it was pretty clear that Mark had taken the step that his father, Felix, had been aiming for with his earlier breeding of Iolanthe and Vulcan. Here was the big campbellii type flower on a young plant with strong colour. Mark named it for his father, even though it may be seen as a slightly unexpected memorial for a man who was a quiet and modest person and of slight stature. The magnolia is none of these. It is large flowered, robust and simply spectacular.

What was even more gratifying for us on our recent trip to the United Kingdom was to see how very well Magnolia Felix Jury is performing there. We walked into the Garden House in Devon and there in pride of place at the entranceway was a fine specimen. It was in leaf but Mark still recognised it instantly. The head gardener confirmed that it is in such a prime position because it performs so spectacularly well and we found that in a number of other gardens around the country. To say that Mark was quietly chuffed is a bit of an understatement. There is no certainty that plants which perform well in New Zealand will be equally good overseas.

Magnolia Felix has been described as a giant pink cabbage on a stick

Magnolia Felix has been described as a giant pink cabbage on a stick

It is difficult to get full tree shots of magnolias, and especially for the original Felix which is planted in a grove of seedlings, but this plant in our park is about 12 years from cutting.

Felix Jury in our park

Felix Jury in our park

Black Tulip is also in full flower and it seems that this will be a good season all round here for deep colour. There are various theories internationally as to what affects the depth of colour but most seem to be anecdotal rather than scientific. We just feel that some years here we get better colour than other years. New Zealanders tend to take the red magnolias for granted and don’t really understand that the deep colours are unusual internationally.

Magnolia Black Tulip in full flower

Magnolia Black Tulip in full flower

Magnolia Diary number 4, 16 August, 2009

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Magnolia Lanarth - now past its best

Magnolia Lanarth - now past its best

One night of rain and Magnolia Lanarth is in decline for the season. Passing over. We don’t mind that Lanarth looks a picture of perfection for such a short time but we can understand that it is a problem for people who live on small sections and who prefer prolonged flowering.

sprengeri diva - great from a distance

sprengeri diva - great from a distance

Campbellii has peaked too but in front of our campbellii tree, Sweetheart (a Caerhays Belle seedling raised from a Ron Gordon plant and named by Peter Cave) is just opening and is very much pretty in pink. Sargentiana robusta and various stellatas are also opening. Sprengeri diva is in full flower and looks great from afar, but floppy and a tad scruffy when viewed close up. We need more substance in blooms in our conditions with wind and heavy rain.

Michelia doltsopa is flowering around the district. The form in our park was named and released by Peter Cave as Rusty but we have never sold it. Quite simply, we think it is too large. Sure, our plant is only around 10 metres tall – but it is a good 20 metres wide. By my maths, that means that Rusty takes up around 300 square metres of land area. That is a large plant growing from a central trunk and not suckering.

We intercepted the neighbours out sniffing on a morning amble yesterday (and diverted them to coffee). All Mark’s doltsopa hybrids are coming into flower and indeed the fragrance is delicious from the road as well as in our garden. The neighbours were wanting the full on scented experience, having detected it even while driving home.

Fairy Magnolia Blush

Fairy Magnolia Blush

For the domestic garden, Mark’s first michelia hybrid to be released is opening its flowers. Fairy Magnolia Blush is reasonably compact (and clips well) with distinctive pinky purple flowers of reasonably large size. This cultivar is on the NZ market and will become available overseas in the next few years.

The first flowers on Burgundy Star. Doltsopa seedlings behind.

The first flowers on Burgundy Star. Doltsopa seedlings behind.

The row of stock plants of Mark’s Burgundy Star are opening their first flowers though the original plant in our carpark is hardly showing colour. In our opinion, in the proper reds Burgundy Star takes the cake so far.

Magnolia Diary number 3, 13 August 2009

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Black Tulip opening now

Black Tulip opening now

At this time of the season, it is all the dark magnolias coming into flower. The only other colours we have are the soft pink campbellii and one early pink and white seedling which has been left in situ because it provides a contrast to the wine red, purple and deep rosy colours coming out all around the property.

Black Tulip is opening more flowers every day. This one has caught us by surprise with its instant popularity in the market place. Mark named it because the flower, while not large, had such a lovely tulip form and very heavy, dark petals which gave it good weather hardiness. And it is never going to become an enormous tree. The original plant never throws a pale flower so we were disconcerted to see that pale flowers can appear on trees in other locations. While we accept the occurrence of both dark and light flowers on Lanarth, modern hybrids are expected to be uniform.

If you line up a Black Tulip flower beside a good Vulcan flower, there is not much difference in colour. What makes Black Tulip appear so dark on the tree is that the petals (or, more correctly, tepals) are so thick that no light can shine through.

Black Tulip

Black Tulip

We usually advise people to plant Black Tulip in locations where it is to be viewed close up. In the landscape, the flowers can be so dark and relatively small that they tend to meld into the environment whereas viewed close up, it has certainly captured the imagination of the public. It is being trialled as a street tree in New Zealand and we recommend it for driveways, lawn specimens or back of the flower border in home gardens. On a very recent visit, we were gratified to see it as a flagship plant for John Woods Nursery in the UK and to hear that it is performing better than Vulcan. It appears that the British public are as charmed by the perfect flowers as the New Zealand public and can see it fitting into smaller, modern gardens.

But on a larger property, our personal tastes lean to something more over the top and flamboyant which has maximum wow in the landscape – Felix Jury is opening its flowers.