Mark’s michelias (syn. magnolias)
Mark comments that to get a plant on the market takes so many years that by the time it is finally released, he has long since moved on. The exciting stages here are the first flowerings on a new hybrid and the time when it is decided that a cultivar is good enough to put into trialling.
Michelias have been reclassified botanically as magnolias but to the general public, they are likely to remain known as michelias. We tend to swing between in what we call them but the Fairy Magnolia branding adopted and trademarked by our agents (Anthony Tesselaar International) recognises that these are magnolias but marks out the different territory to the big leathery leaved, grandiflora types which are what most people know as evergreen magnolias.
Mark has been working with michelias in a concerted breeding programme for around fifteen years now and we have into the thousands, planted around our property. The crosses have become increasingly complex but sadly we have learned some hard lessons about not divulging information as freely as we used to. In fact we could be described as positively evasive these days but we find late winter and spring very exciting here as the new crosses flower and show further progress, even breakthroughs at times.
Fairy Magnolia Blush was the first release of a new range of compact growing cultivars with increased flower colour and size. It is a downstream foggii hybrid but considerably denser in its growth and more compact than straight foggii crosses. Unclipped, it makes a dense, large shrub to about four metres high by two metres wide. However, it is easily shaped by clipping twice a year and our row of pompom standards have been kept to around one metre in diameter. The flowers open from pink buds and have a definite pink flush. At the start of the season, we have deeper colour and we think that the colour may prove deeper in hotter and drier climates than ours. Its flowering season extends up to three months, although late flowers will not be as good as early to mid season.
Fairy Magnolia® Cream is a free flowering, strongly fragrant pure cream, opening in early spring. While of similar breeding and performance to Blush, its foliage is a brighter green and its peak flowering season extends into months. Each bloom measures at least 10cm across. Cream will take clipping well to keep it hedged, compact or topiaried or it can be left to form a bushy, large shrub around 4 metres tall by 2.5 metres wide.
Fairy Magnolia® White comes down a different breeding chain and is a selection from a run of seedlings we have been referring to as the Snow Flurry series. The fragrant, purest white flowers are sublime, opening from brown velvet buds. It flowers earlier than Blush and Cream, starting in winter, so it is not likely to be as hardy as those two. However, we think it will prove to be hardier than existing doltsopa selections, making a garden friendly, improved substitute for “Silver Clouds”. The foliage is smaller and the plant shows no signs of defoliating after flowering (a major drawback to many doltsopas). It is much bushier in growth and will ultimately reach around 5m by 4m if not trimmed.
Honey Velvet (Magnolia laevifolia syn. Michelia yunnanensis) This is just a species selection but chosen for its large flower which is honey cream rather than creamy white, extended flowering season and healthy performance. Some laevifolia selections are inclined to defoliate when we get a wet and cold spring, but Honey Velvet has not shown that tendency here. It is hard to beat a lovely laevifolia in flower. Alas, now that we have closed the production side of the nursery and the nursery we gave this cultivar to has gone bust, it is unlikely that Honey Velvet is available to purchase.
Overseas readers may like to check out Anthony Tesselaar Plants for availability of the Fairy Magnolias.