Tag Archives: Magnolia Honey Tulip

Tikorangi notes: a week of pests and petals

Magnolia Honey Tulip

Honey Tulip is going from strength to strength as the tree matures

The magnolia joy this week has been ‘Honey Tulip’. Mark is a modest plant breeder and inclined to describe a number of his best plants as a stroke of luck. I know how hard he works to get these so-called lucky breaks and there is not much left to chance. As we looked at a prominent specimen of ‘Honey Tulip’ at our entrance this week, he expressed relief again that it is indeed excellent and that we have not released a dog of a plant on the market. And he mused (again) that out of that particular controlled cross, he only got two yellows amongst the offspring and only one of those was of merit. That is what he calls a lucky break. I don’t think he is happy unless he gets a run of several – or many – very good similar seedlings worth considering but even then he worries into the future whether he picked the best one at the time to name and release! So the annual display that ‘Honey Tulip’ puts on for us is both a relief and a delight as it continues to go from strength to strength.

The battle with the rabbits continues. After the new lily border was decimated last year, it was a priority to try and get them up this year. While the bulbs will likely survive one year with all their growth having been chewed off, two years is stretching it. First, I spent a day erecting a mesh fence along the border. It was more diversionary than rabbit-proof. In an environment filled with tasty edibles, I just hoped they would take the hint and change their route. But the little fockers laughed at me. When the first shoots were chewed back to ground level in a single night, I started putting cut lengths of drainage tubes over the damaged ones. That works but there are literally hundreds of bulbs in that border and Mark didn’t think it was a realistic option for the whole area. He tried the expensive rabbit repellent spray we bought last year but they laughed at his efforts too.

Netting and tubes in an attempt to deter rabbits

Blood and bone works. Mark now does a daily round. He sprays water on the fresh shoots and sprinkles a light application of blood and bone on the wet surface. The moisture makes it adhere which means that he will only have to repeat the application after heavy rain. It requires vigilance and routine. We need to get them above maybe 40cm so the rabbits can’t chew off the top and the shoots can keep growing. It won’t matter then if they chew off the lowest leaves.

Blood and bone lightly sprinkled on damp foliage is the best rabbit deterrent so far

The longer term solution is obviously to reduce the rabbit population. Mark does daily rounds with the gun. The dogs have found the odd burrow of small ones, to their delight, but are pretty useless once they are larger and on the loose. We got desperate enough to buy some rabbit poison but it is also poisonous to dogs so it requires putting out at night and gathering it back up in the morning. On the first morning, not only had the rabbits totally ignored the bait but our Dudley dog ate one bait before Mark’s eyes. It put him off using it again. The option of getting a cat again is still on the table. It is the first time we have ever hoped a stoat may move back onto our territory to do a clean out of the rabbits. Not for the first time, we have muttered curses at the early British settlers in this country who introduced this pest so they could continue their what-ho-jolly-hunting traditions.

A magnolia bud that has been eaten out, usually by possums but we are now wondering if rats are also to blame

While on pests, a possum – or maybe rats – have wrought havoc this year on some of the magnolias in the distant parts of our property. You can see from the photograph how the offender has eaten into the bud and nipped out the centre at the point when the flower buds were forming. Every single bud on this tree was taken out, which is why Mark is wondering about rats as well as possums. It is very discouraging. Mark is the chief pest control officer here and he generally manages to maintain some sort of equilibrium with a combination of ongoing trapping and the gun but this year appears to be particularly bad.

Doryanthes palmeri or the Queensland spear lily

Two months on from when I first mentioned the Doryanthes palmeri coming into flower,  I am coming to the conclusion that it does not open any more than this. I had envisaged that massive stem covered in open blooms but I think it may just gently continue for a long time yet, opening blooms in sequence without that mass display. The bees love it. Every time I pass, I can hear the audible hum and most of the open flowers have a bee foraging within them.

I mentioned it as a nursery relic cast aside. And indeed, I found confirmation of that this week as I was clearing around the plant. Behold, the original black planter bag, still around some of the root system. Some plants are tough and determined. It was not going to stay constricted by a pathetic little PB as we call these nursery bags.

Dainty and fragrant Narcissus jonquilla

Finally, because we love the tiny as much as the large, here are two little scenes from the rockery. Spring is a glorious season here, never more so than when we get over a week without rain to enjoy the blooming. But suddenly we are on the cusp of the point where a long spring no longer beckons but instead we are under pressure to get the new plantings done before it is too late and we are too dry and too warm.

Moraea villosa or the peacock iris

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

The Yellow Magnolias and Honey Tulip

Honey Tulip - looking very good this week

Honey Tulip – looking very good this week

There is some relief here this week as our newest magnolia, Honey Tulip, is looking particularly good. It is always a bit nerve wracking releasing a new cultivar on the market and hoping we have it right.

We are still a little bemused by a communication from some random person when Honey Tulip was first shown in an overseas publication. I will have to paraphrase it because I must have deleted it in irritation at the time, but it said something along the lines of: “It is good that Mark Jury is discerning in the magnolias he names, but the world has enough yellow magnolias already….” It then proceeded to instruct my Mark on what he should be breeding for instead.

The international world of magnolias is pretty small, the number of international magnolia breeders even fewer. We know most of them by repute, if not personally. This email did not come from anyone we had heard of before. What was galling was that in the heady world of new magnolias, Honey Tulip represents a genuine step in flower form for the yellows.

Honey Tulip - a lucky break in flower form and performance

Honey Tulip – a lucky break in flower form and performance

The yellow magnolias descend from a single species and while most magnolias originate from parts of Asia, the yellow deciduous M. acuminata and the evergreen grandiflora magnolias are from USA. M. acuminata is from eastern USA up into southern Ontario in Canada. We can remember when it first came into this country maybe 25 years ago, along with four of the earliest yellow hybrids – Yellow Bird, Yellow Fever, Elizabeth and Koban Dori. They were a collector’s novelty. Who knew that magnolia flowers could be yellow?

It did not take that long to realise that the yellow magnolias were not quite like the big pink, red, purple and white ones. There are a few problems yet to be solved. M. acuminata itself grows very rapidly and very large which takes it beyond the size most gardens can accommodate. The flowers are small, very small by magnolia standards, though they have good fragrance. Mind you, it has to be a very strong scent to mean anything when the blooms are 20 metres up above.

However, the biggest problem with acuminata and most of the hybrids is that the flowers come so late in the season that they coincide with the new foliage which then hides them. We are of the opinion that the whole point of a deciduous magnolia is to have all those fat, furry buds exploding into a mass of blooms on a bare tree in late winter and early spring. So little flowers, no matter what colour, obscured by masses of fresh foliage, are not going to set the world on fire.

Magnolia Yellow Fever planted on our road boundary

Magnolia Yellow Fever planted on our road boundary

We have not kept buying the many new yellow hybrids that have come on the market. There is a limit to how much space we have and too many of them show the same flaws. In a large garden, the best performer we have seen so far remains the early American hybrid with the unfortunate name of Yellow Fever. It is not the strongest yellow but it does flower on bare wood and is a pretty primrose, unlike Elizabeth which is more cream.

There is yellow form of the Asian M. denudata but we have not heard of it being imported to this country yet and have not seen it in person. It is difficult to judge colour from the range of hues shown on the internet. A form called ‘Yellow River’ is being sold overseas but the nature of its breeding and origin is unclear. Certainly it came out of China and it has denudata origins but whether it is a yellow sport of that species, a natural hybrid or a controlled cross seems unclear. Even less clear is when or if it will become available in this country. Only time will tell whether international breeders get the jump on different yellow magnolias using denudata yellow, with or without acuminata.

For all these reasons, our Honey Tulip represented a significant breeding step. It flowers on bare wood, before the foliage. It does not appear that it is going to be of timber tree stature. The colour is a pretty butterscotch but the big breakthrough is the form. While not huge flowers, the tulip shaped blooms are larger than most other yellows – very similar in fact to a soft yellow form of Magnolia Black Tulip. It was also a lucky break because it was the only one of the plants from that particular cross that flowered in that form and colour.

The ultimate challenge is to get a pretty yellow Iolanthe with big cup and saucer flowers. Mark has about 20 years left in him to work towards this goal. I wonder then if the overseas critic who saw himself as an expert on yellow magnolias will concede that there is always room for improvement.

The ultimate breeding challenge - is a yellow Iolanthe even possible?

The ultimate breeding challenge – is a yellow Iolanthe even possible?

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

Not one but three new Jury magnolias this year

The sublime blooms on Fairy Magnolia® White

The sublime blooms on Fairy Magnolia® White


It is not often that we have three major new releases coming out in one year. And, to be honest, it takes so many years of trialling and then building up that by the time they are released, they no longer feel “new” to us. But there is a surge of pride with these three hybrids of Mark’s breeding.
Magnolia Honey Tulip, our new yellow version of Black Tulip

Magnolia Honey Tulip, our new yellow version of Black Tulip


Mark is very particular about deciduous magnolias and had only named three – all in red tones. The fourth, to be released this year, is his first in the yellows. Honey Tulip™ is a golden honey version of Black Tulip. Given the somewhat floppy nature of most yellow magnolias with their soft petals and tendency to become paler as the flowering season progresses, we think Honey Tulip represents an advance in flower form, petal substance and retention of its colour intensity through the season. In New Zealand, where most yellow magnolias flower at the same time as they come into leaf, it is to Honey Tulip’s credit that it flowers on bare wood. Trials suggest that it will remain a smaller growing tree.

Fairy Magnolia® is the branding attached to our new range of michelias. These have been reclassified as magnolias but we wanted to differentiate these new michelias from the usual evergreen magnolias which are the leather-leafed grandiflora types. These are much lighter in growth and fill a different role in the garden and landscape. The first release was Fairy Magnolia® Blush.

Fairy Magnolia Cream - many flowers over a long season

Fairy Magnolia Cream – many flowers over a long 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 (pictured at the top) 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.

All plants will be available in New Zealand in limited quantities and some will be available overseas. These plants are produced under licence (in other words we only have small numbers to sell to personal customers later in the year when we open for plant sales) so ask your local garden centre. Overseas readers may like to check out Anthony Tesselaar Plants for availability.

Magnolia (deciduous) Honey Tulip

Magnolia (deciduous) Honey Tulip


Fairy Magnolia Cream

Fairy Magnolia Cream