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Mark’s story

* as told to The NZ Rhododendron, the annual journal of NZRA Council and Pukeiti Trust Boad. December 2017. Photos are mine. 

Mark could perhaps be described as having chlorophyll running in his veins. He was the afterthought child in his family, quite a bit younger than his brothers. He remembers tagging along with his parents and visitors, listening in as they discussed plants around the Tikorangi garden in North Taranaki. “It was quite a lonely and isolated life in the country and I really wanted the social contact, even if it was with older people. It was only later that I realised what I learned in those early years.”

Mark was determined to head off to university, the first in his farming family to do so. It was not an easy path but he graduated with Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences, majoring in Psychology. He enrolled in a post-graduate diploma in guidance and counselling but withdrew half way through the year. “I was the youngest on the course and all the others were teachers with regrets. One would have liked to be a potter, another dreamed of running a country pub. I didn’t want to get to my late 40s and look back with regret. By that stage, Abbie and I had already been married a couple of years and I went home and told her I wanted to withdraw from the course and follow some dreams.”

From there, he taught himself to draw from a book by John Ruskin, taught himself to turn wood to a high quality and then set out to learn how to propagate and, from there, to build a nursery.

“When I started here, there was no nursery. Dad was a just a farmer and a gardener who liked to breed plants. He had taught himself the rudiments of propagation. I started to build the nursery from one wheelbarrow up and I set out to learn how to propagate and to grow plants commercially. It was a case of learning through trial and error. It has always surprised me how successful the nursery was.” Mark credits the access to his father’s plant hybrids for giving him new material to mark out his nursery as different to the rest. “Dad had pretty much stopped hybridising by then. It was only ever a hobby for him. I started more systematically to see how far I could push plant breeding. And as the plant breeding grew in range and scale, I had the nursery to cope with growing on the material.” He started with saturation coverage of a large plant of Camellia pitardii in a Urenui garden.

From an early stage, Felix made it clear that the garden he and his wife Mimosa had built would pass to Mark and his family. Mark and Abbie are demonstrably aware of what it means to be on a family property that is already on its fourth generation.

Arisaema seedlings are for the garden at Tikorangi, not commercial release

Mark is clear in his mind about the hybridising he does which has commercial potential and that which is solely to try and get better plants for their own garden. He is currently working with galanthus, aiming for later flowering cultivars which perform as well in Tikorangi conditions as Galanthus nivalus ‘S. Arnott’. He is continuing the efforts of his late father with cyclamineus narcissi, looking for sterile selections that bloom from every bulb, as Felix Jury’s ‘Twilight’ does. In the hellebores, improving garden performance and getting cultivars which hold their blooms above the foliage are the aims, as well as looking for sterility if possible. In the arisaemas, he wanted to extend the colour range and the season and to get some hybrid vigour into A. sikokianum types. He is often to be found out and about with his magnifying glass and paintbrush.

The garden is always the star in Mark’s mind. “This is a poor man’s garden,” he says. “It was never made with a big budget and if we had to buy in all the plants we want, we could never afford to keep it going, let alone expand as we are. To get masses of snowdrops to the point where they naturalise themselves to or to get a new 40 metre of border of auratum lilies, we have to raise our own from seed. And when raising from seed, I often like to start with controlled crosses to see if I can get better outcomes, rather than just using open pollinated material.”

The garden is a treasure trove of plant material, some of which may or may not go into commercial production at some stage in the future but which currently has no market. “We have some thrip-resistant rhododendrons with full trusses if that plant genus comes back into fashion. At the moment, the market is so small that there is no commercial advantage in releasing them.” The same is true of coloured and variegated cordylines and a range of camellias.

Magnolia Felix Jury

The creation of new cultivars with international potential has been a major focus. In the deciduous magnolias, Mark has named and released four out of many hundreds that he has raised. But he says he has the next three possibles under trial. Of those released, the magnolia that he named for his father is his greatest pride. “It is what Felix was trying to get to – good colour in a large cup and saucer bloom, so I called it ‘Felix Jury’. This one is doing really well internationally which is particularly pleasing. It has already been given an award of garden merit from the RHS.”

A range of michelia seedling blooms

Fairy Magnolia White, with bonus kereru

The michelias are a source of frequent disappointment to Mark. “We have raised so many of them now and have a good range of new colours. But it is so difficult to get everything in one plant – clean colour, good size of bloom and plenty of them over an extended period, compact, bushy growth, easy to propagate and scented. Keeping the scent is the most elusive attribute of all.” Mark has named three so far, marketed under the ‘Fairy Magnolia’ brand, but there is a long way to go yet and he keeps persevering, often with several hundred new seedlings a year.

Camellia Fairy Blush, Rhododendron Floral Sun and Magnolia Honey Tulip

Amongst the camellias, Mark names his selection of ‘Fairy Blush’ as his personal favourite. He and Abbie have chosen to use it extensively for clipped hedging in their garden because of its long flowering season and its good habit of growth. ‘Floral Sun’ remains his pick amongst the rhododendrons.

Daphne Perfume Princess

Ironically, it is a daphne, a one-off plant from a speculative breeding effort, that may prove to be the most lucrative cultivar internationally. ‘Perfume Princess’ basically looks like an odora although it often flowers down the stem like bholua. It is the size of the flower, the vigour of the plant and the length of the flowering season that sets this plant apart from other daphnes. “It is just a brilliant plant to grow and a terrific nursery plant to produce,” Mark says. “That is not true of most daphnes which can be very difficult to produce in containers.” Both the local and international markets for a daphne eclipse the market for magnolias, even if the plant itself is less spectacular.

“We stopped doing mailorder in 2003, stopped wholesale in 2008 and phased out retail after that. The phone calls and emails in search of plants haven’t stopped in the time since but we were really glad to shut all that down. Abbie always described nursery work as being like factory work but in better surroundings. There was no fun in it but it enabled us to get to where we are today.” Mark is quietly proud of the fact that royalties on plant sales, particularly overseas, are what enabled them to retire from the nursery trade and pursue their interests in the garden.

The garden is still expanding. They closed to the public 3 years ago and have been enjoying the freedom to experiment.  “We’ll open again at some stage, maybe 2019. For the annual garden festival, at least. Though we are unlikely to ever open again for extended periods during the year.”

Mark and the Magnolia Felix Jury tree at Wisley on the left. Mark with a collection of blooms from different seedlings at home in Tikorangi

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Seasons greetings

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An antipodean Christmas is different – a blend of southern summer with northern traditions, which gives it a flavour all of its own.

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I wish all readers and subscribers a merry and festive time and good gardening wishes for 2016.

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“The Holy Grail of horticulture”

Daphne Perfume Princess

Daphne Perfume Princess

As a people, we New Zealanders tend to be a little more reserved than our Australian neighbours across the Tasman. So I post this link to their prime time Channel 9 last night with a slight sense of unseemly boasting. But to have somebody of the stature of Don Burke declaring Mark’s Daphne Perfume Princess to be the Holy Grail of horticulture and the best new plant to be released in Australia in the last 50 years is high praise indeed.

This knight...

This knight…

We knew the story was going to air. We had been sent photos – Don donning a knight’s costume in a theatrical take on the search for the Holy Grail. Indeed, we had raised our eyebrows at Channel 9 wardrobe department’s selection of a knight’s costume owing to the fact that we think it was King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table who were in search of the Holy Grail, not so much the Templar Knights of the Christian crusades…. But no matter, Don carried it off with panache.

Mark’s comment is that the ultimate challenge for a plant breeder is to take a really well known, common plant and to make it better. We hope he has achieved this with Daphne Perfume Princess. Others certainly think so.

 

 

Introducing (drum roll please) Daphne Perfume Princess

Mark's Daphne Perfume Princess

Mark’s Daphne Perfume Princess

By the time a new plant bred by Mark finally gets released onto the market, it has been a part of our lives for so many years that it no longer feels new or exciting to us. Mark has long since moved on to the next generation of plants. But we remain excited by this daphne, named Perfume Princess.

Perfume Princess to the left, centre is a large flowered D. odora 'Grace Stewart', right is a normal sized Daphne odora

Perfume Princess to the left, centre is a large flowered D. odora ‘Grace Stewart’, right is a normal sized Daphne odora

It is “just a daphne”, as Mark is wont to say, but what a daphne. For starters, the flower is significantly larger than comparable odora types. The flowering season is also a great deal longer. This is both the first and the last daphne to bloom each year in our garden. The plant itself is noticeably more robust than other odoras. It looks like a particularly healthy odora – and many gardeners will know that the common daphne is not remarkable for vigour, health or indeed longevity so any improvement in that area is welcome. It smells like a daphne and is that not why we grow them?

But it also has the capacity to flower down the stem when growing strongly. I describe it as the eucomis look. This characteristic adds a great deal to its flower power. So yes, even we are still excited by this new daphne.
046The eucomis look

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back around 1996, Mark was taken to meet UK breeder, Robin White. Some readers will know him for his Daphne Eternal Fragrance although back then, it was his work on the Party Dress series of double hellebores that fascinated Mark more. However, that visit inspired Mark to renew his efforts with daphnes after he had been disappointed with initial efforts. It was not to be as straightforward as other plant genera he works with. The progeny were few. Poor Perfume Princess was nearly lost before she ever got to show her strengths and that, we think, would have been pity.

Please, admire my restraint in not using a naff heading such as “Birth of a Princess”. Any coincidence with the arrival of the British royal baby was just that – coincidence.

Perfume Princess was released in New Zealand last weekend, launched in Australia at the Melbourne Flower Show and is available in UK and Europe. It has yet to be released in North America. It is managed on our behalf by Anthony Tesselaar Plants. We do not handle the production or distribution so any enquiries regarding availability need to be directed to them.

My farewell message to Waikato Times readers

No longer wanted at Waikato Times newspaper….
057 - Copy - CopyIt is time for me to bid farewell to Waikato readers. This will be my last garden page. The new-look garden page will be rolled out next Saturday but I will not be part of it. I have really enjoyed writing for this publication over the past 3 ½ years and would like to thank readers for reading it. Thank you also to those of you who have emailed and even written proper letters and cards.

I have an online presence for anyone who wishes to keep following – on Facebook under thejurygarden, on Twitter as @Tikorangi and a blog at http://www.jury.co.nz. I won’t stop writing. Eventually I may manage to compose my piece on the point where heavily ornamented gardens cross over to folk art (and, scarily, where they don’t). This will, however, will remain a mystery to readers of this page.

Thanks, goodbye and good gardening.

???????????????????????????????“I shall stop being queer,” he said, “if I go to the garden. There is Magic in there – good Magic, you know, Mary, I am sure there is.”
“So am I,” said Mary.
“Even if it isn’t real Magic,” Colin said, “we can pretend it is. Something is there – something!”
“It’s Magic,” said Mary, but not black. It’s as white as snow.”
They always called it Magic, and indeed it seemed like it in the months that followed – the wonderful months – the radiant months – the amazing ones. Oh! the things which happened in that garden! If you have never had a garden, you cannot understand, and if you have had a garden, you will know that it would take a whole book to describe all the things that came to pass there.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden (1911).

Descending into farce: Tikorangi Newsletter no.4

Tikorangi-Butter-paperTikorangi Newsletter 4, Tuesday 10 September

Plenty of road signage was in place at 10.31 on Friday 6 September when work had commenced

Plenty of road signage was in place at 10.31 on Friday 6 September when work had commenced

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“Ooh, I bet you’re wondering how I knew

About your plans t’ make Greymouth blue.

Well I heard it through the grapevine

How you remove their road signs

Oh, I heard it through the grapevine”

* Now Tikorangi residents, it is not the fault of Greymouth Petroleum or their contractor that people are “removing” the warning signs from the entry to their new Kowhai C well site. These photographs, taken after smoko on the very day they started work clearly show that there is a full complement of safety signage in place at that time. Since then, our roading man at Council has been told from a most reliable source, “on the grapevine” as he says, that safety signs are “being removed”. This is a matter of public safety and it may be that those alarmist residents who have been in contact with Council expressing concern at the safety of that entranceway have decided to make it even more dangerous by removing signs. Obviously. Seems logical to us here at NPDC. sad_smilesad_smile

Plenty of warning signage coming from the other side at 10.20am on Friday 6 Sept

Plenty of warning signage coming from the other side at 10.20am on Friday 6 Sept

* And the mayor is not pleased with some of you at Tikorangi. You may have heard him on the 10am news bulletin on National Radio today. My, but he made us proud here back in the office. You will be proud too, to hear that it is only a very few people in Tikorangi who are not thrilled with the new Kowhai C site. The vast majority are very supportive of your mayor, your council and Greymouth Petroleum. Very few indeed object and they are spoiling it for all those of you who think that site is perfectly placed. So to the 85 of you who turned up to the first meeting in the Tikorangi Hall on March 5 and bleated about your concerns, to those of you who turned up in our Council chambers to “support” your speakers on April 23 and again on June 11, to those fictional 80 people who signed the letter you gave us opposing that site (75 of you allegedly being residents or landowners around the immediate block of Kowhai C), to Otaraua Hapu and to those of you who have been hounding us with emails, phone calls and personal visits all year, we say “back off”. You are just a small minority so you don’t count. Your mayor has spoken. And by the by, he is hopping mad at the news (heard down the grapevine, too) that some of you are now referring to him as Rumpelstiltskin.sad_smilesad_smilesad_smile

* Just to clarify the situation with regard to the well site entrance: what is happening now is “construction” and is therefore NOT a controlled activity. When all this frenzy of construction activity is pretty much over in a month or six weeks, only then will the company and Council start on widening the road and making the entranceway safer. Because that is how we operate here at NPDC.

* We are not going to say nga mihi to everybody in Tikorangi. We are not best pleased with you sad_smile and we are hoping for an improvement in behaviour shortly. Under the new legislation passed by central government, we have been able to pass on certain key names to the GCSB and we expect that they will shortly be conducting raids on certain Tikorangi terrorist cells in search of Greymouth contractor’s missing road signs.

* sad_smileDon’t make us sad, Tikorangi. We want smiley faces on our next newsletter.

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13th September. My but what a difference a few days can make. Look at all the signage and road cones that have appeared. Were the “removed signs” returned?

And 3 days later: look!

And 3 days later: look!

  • Tikorangi Newsletter 3 (including my letter to NPDC).
  • Click here to read the second issue of your Tikorangi News.
  • Click here to read the first edition of your Tikorangi News.

The following letter is reproduced with the permission of the writer. Gavin Faull is managing director of Faull Farms Ltd – Trewithen Partnership with land adjacent to the Kowhai C well site. His email was sent to the mayor and councillors on Tuesday September 5.

Dear Harry,

Like (Otaraua Hapu), like my fellow Tikorangi residents, I too am shocked, disappointed, bewildered at the behaviour of council and the complete ignoring of the concerns of the Tikorangi residents.

I will not repeat all the issues that have been presented over the past months.

I am totally dismayed that

1. No consultation is required with the people of Tikorangi
2. There are no affected parties regarding Kowhai C
3. That we gamble with the future of our agricultural industry and our environment.

We have seen what happened to Fonterra’s reputation in China over a relatively minor “dirty pipe” episode

This was the third scare for Fonterra which represents 25% of the NZ economy.

The environmental risk is huge if there are not very, very strict controls in place, legislated and policed. There seems to be huge difficulty to even monitor traffic movement in Tikorangi – a relative simple process. How are we going to monitor and manage toxic waste?

You know that Fonterra is reviewing very carefully milk collection from land farms in Taranaki and has already advised that no new land farms can supply milk to Fonterra. This is clearly signalling concern by Fonterra.

What is my protection regarding possible toxic contamination with my dairy farm immediately adjacent to Kowhai C?? Am I not an affected party?? I can assure you that if this becomes an issue and Fonterra refuses my milk production then I will have a huge compensation claim from all parties – Greymouth; NPDC,TRC and all executives and members of management of all these companies and organisations who have been charged with the responsibility of professional management. The liability potential would be huge.

As you know I am all for progress. I have been involved in many business developments in Taranaki that have positively helped the economic growth of Taranaki.

I am not for stopping economic development.

I am just amazed at the total lack of management and the enforcing of responsible environmental controls.

Government is elected to represent the people and protect the people.

The concerns of the Tikorangi residents will not go away.

Regards
Gavin

Gavin M. Faull, JP
Managing Director

Tikorangi News 3: September 8, 2013

Tikorangi-Butter-paper

Hi de hi, campers!

Welcome to the third edition of Tikorangi News. Matters are unfolding so rapidly in Tikorangi that we at New Plymouth District Council understand that you need to be kept well informed. At Council we understand. We are very understanding. We understand that Tikorangi residents are disappointed that the Kowhai C site is going ahead. We do. We really, really understand.
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by-school-NgatiMrd-04-09-13 3.49 pm.* Tikorangi folk will be thrilled to see that, like Arnie, Greymouth Petroleum are back! They sure are back. Be reassured that we, here at Council, understand your concerns about safety issues at the entrance to their lovely new Kowhai C site but we are right across safety issues. All of us here at Council are well briefed on their Traffic Management Plan and there is no danger at all. It is perfectly safe.regular_smile
Ngatimaru-Rd-04-09-13--3.45
* It is idle speculation that a Greymouth vehicle may have been involved with this minor traffic incident on Ngatimaru Road at 3.45pm on September 4. We understand the lady in the ute who may have been rear-ended is absolutely fine although the ute may not make a full recovery.
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* Isn’t it wonderful that Greymouth have distributed their newsletter to local residents? It is so packed with handy information and updates so everyone is now really well informed as to what is happening. You will have noted their comment that “We choose sites as far away as possible from residents.” It is not Greymouth’s fault that you Tikorangi folk have your houses too close together. We have reviewed the situations of the neighbours’ houses closest to both Kowhai B and C at 350 metres or less and have concluded, in the most understanding way, that effects will be less than minor and therefore perfectly acceptable. You can trust us to protect your interests. regular_smileregular_smile

* Since learning that they were to get the consent, Greymouth Petroleum’s field staff have been busy as little beavers in the last week visiting local residents. This is called retrospective consultation with the local community. If you haven’t seen your Greymouth rep yet, give them a call. Offering them home made cake and a cuppa is a good way of showing them country hospitality.

021 - Copy* The good folk at Venture Taranaki tell us they are well down the track of preparing their report on the economic benefits to Taranaki of flaring and night lighting sites. Local residents will be well aware that these activities have the positive benefit of lowering their household power bills. There are many other benefits and Venture Taranaki expect to be able to quantify the financial and employment benefits that accrue from the companies’ generosity with flaring and night lighting. Local residents may not realise that a side benefit of flaring is, reportedly, a reduction in flying insects and as a result the risk of a malaria or Ross River virus outbreak in Tikorangi has been greatly reduced.
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* Some Tikorangi residents have called for a lowering of the speed limit through the area. We have taken this suggestion seriously and sought independent expert advice. Contrary to what local residents may think, the expert advice is very clear that we should be raising the speed limit to 120km/hr. This simple action will result in a considerable lowering of risk because the time taken for heavy vehicles carrying hazardous loads to pass your property will be greatly reduced. We will be gazetting the new speed limit shortly and new signage will be posted.

???????????????????????????????* Even we at NPDC have been astonished at just how quickly Greymouth Petroleum have been able to improve your local countryside. It took just one and a half days to change it from this boring and dull country road (shown to the left), into this lovely new scene shown below. You hardly know they are there, do you Tikorangi? This is the incredibly small environmental footprint they have.
Otar-Rd-12.11-pm-07-09-2013

Todd's plantings

Todd’s plantings

Greymouth's pittos

Greymouth’s pittos

* In the spirit of friendly competition, it is clear that your two local petrochemical companies are actively working to make their sites more beautiful than their rival’s. Todd’s entranceway to their Mangahewa C site features rewarewas with herbaceous under plantings. Not to be outdone, Greymouth have spared no expense and gone for high quality pittosporums along the boundary of the Kowhai B site. That is just the ticket. The companies are going to make sure that Tikorangi is more beautiful than ever.

Mangahewa-C-quarters-march-* sad_smile We have heard a few mutterings that some residents may not be happy about the establishment of a semi-permanent single men’s camp with the access on little Stockman Road. My, oh my, what whingers some people are. Such camps are commonplace in the outbacks of Australia and Tikorangi is just as remote. There haven’t been any problems with the camp at Mangahewa C site and we see its relocation to Stockman Road could be a positive move for the community. And of course if somebody wanted to build a hotel on Stockman Road, we would approve it so a single men’s camp is not so different. What could go wrong?

* Residents closest to Mangahewa C who are sad that the last well is to be drilled shortly will be so excited to hear that Todd Energy are planning to drill another four wells there in the near future. Such good news for all. Look upon this as a potential tourist attraction. In the meantime, lucky residents along Tikorangi Road will be pleased to hear that it is highly likely that Mangahewa E will be starting soon and you will get to enjoy the brand new, state of the art drilling rig painted in special colours.regular_smile
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On that positive note, we conclude. Kia kaha Tikorangi! And if things get you down, raise a smile. At the office, we are running a sweepstake on how many more well sites can be fitted in Tikorangi. There will always be room for more.
Your very understanding team at NPDC.

On-top-of-hill-K-C-
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Click here to read the second issue of your Tikorangi News.
Click here to read the first edition of your Tikorangi News.

My letter to NPDC councillors, emailed on September 2. It has elicited just two replies. A courteous acknowledgement from Cr Biesek and a classic case of passive-aggressive self justification from a councillor who had best remain unnamed at this stage.

Dear Councillors,

It is difficult to convey the sense of betrayal felt at the news that your Council officers are ready to sign off the Kowhai C site. It will not be going to a hearing. I am assuming there are no affected parties under their interpretation of the RMA. There has been no community consultation.

The Tikorangi community came to you in good faith. The letter signed by 80 adults, 75 of whom live in the immediate block around the Kowhai C site, represented a rare expression of unanimity in the district in opposing that site. But you shelved that letter. Greymouth Petroleum has not even bothered to acknowledge receipt of it.

In good faith, we have spent countless hours working to find paths through the development. After all, we were only opposing one site. We could work with the other 12 well sites (now numbering 95 or so potential gas wells consented or in the process of being consented in Tikorangi with a further possible 17 that I know of – there may be more). There was always the sticking point of Kowhai C but your staff assured us it was “on hold”. Your website still shows it as “paused”.

And all the while, as we sat around the table with your staff and put in a great deal of work behind the scenes, those very same staff were working with Greymouth to repeatedly massage their application for Kowhai C to the point where it is now ready to be signed off. But they didn’t tell us that. The first we knew about it was when work started on the site last Tuesday.

Reassurances that it is for 4 wells only and for 15 years ring hollow. Now that they are in, it is easy for things to change and for later applications to vary the consent, based on existing use. There is already precedent for this at Mangahewa C. Councillors change, staff change. You have opened the door to industrial development in the one block which this community opposed.

What is more, in an historic move, Otaraua Hapu stood in solidarity beside Tikorangi residents to oppose Kowhai C site and told you that this is their territory and they had not been consulted or given their consent. Otaraua tell me that the courts have now confirmed that it is indeed their rohe although Ngati Rahiri have challenged that ruling so it is still before the courts. What is important is that Otaraua Hapu has still not been consulted and council officers have not responded to repeated messages and emails on this matter. Yet you are signing off their territory for heavy industrial development. It appears that no lessons have been learned from history.

All but one of the councillors around your table listened courteously and, I thought, gave us a fair hearing even though some of you showed definite allegiances soon after.

But you did nothing. So Kowhai C is going ahead.

Shame on Council staff. The so-called Tikorangi Protocol was based on good faith and trust. I have neither left.

Yours sincerely,
Abbie