Tag Archives: Magnolia Serene

Tikorangi notes: THAT yucca, wretched geissorhiza and the close of magnolia season.

Yucca whipplei finally flowered after maybe 20 years

Yucca whipplei finally flowered after maybe 20 years

The state of our Yucca whipplei is such an ongoing saga here it even has its own folder in my photo files. I wrote about its impending move back in early 2013 when we had cut the concrete paving in preparation for its move. But it was still in situ this time last year when, after a period of getting on for 20 years, it actually flowered. We were thrilled. As the flower spike edged past the first story of the house, it was a well-documented blooming.

IMG_5269But other needs were always more urgent so the moving of the yucca had not taken place. Nor had the windows to what is our TV room been cleaned for many years. But yesterday the day came, forced by the arrival of the glaziers to install retro-fitted double glazing in our wooden window sashes. It was not an easy task. Mark had thought he could probably chainsaw the top off but the fibrous nature of the spent foliage merely jammed the chainsaw. At this point it is in two pieces. The top will be replanted on the sunny bank in the north garden where it will likely recover. The base, with a new rosette well-formed already, will be dug out and also relocated. It will, I tell you it will. I like the garden view out of the windows which is now visible again and while cleaning windows is not my favourite activity, I do like to be able to do it when necessary.

IMG_5272As far as we know, this is Yucca whipplei, also known as Hesperoyucca whipplei, chaparral yucca, Our Lord’s candle, Spanish bayonet, Quixote yucca or foothill yucca. So Wikipedia tells me. Apparently the most common name is Our Lord’s candle. It being native to southern America from California through to Mexico, it clearly felt right at home in the bone dry conditions of the house border beneath the eves. In the meantime, Our Lord’s candle is no long alight at our place.

Pretty it may be in bloom, but I have spent countless hours trying to eradicate this plant, as Felix Jury did before me

Pretty it may be in bloom, but I have spent countless hours trying to eradicate this plant, as Felix Jury did before me

IMG_5004IMG_5005I have been forced to extreme remedial action in the rockery in the Battle of the Geissorhiza. Such a pretty weed and so dreadfully invasive. Each bulb is surrounded by many little baby bulbs that peel  off as soon as you look at them, ready to grow into the future. In the worst affected pockets of rockery, I am lifting everything and washing the roots to make sure no dreaded geissorhiza bulbs are lurking in there hiding. Then I dig out all the soil and replace it with clean soil. I was surprised that one pocket generates almost a full barrow of soil. The contaminated soil is being dumped in the deepest, darkest shade where I hope nothing will germinate and if it does, as a last resort it can be sprayed. This somewhat extreme and labour intensive treatment should, I hope,  get me closer to victory and the extermination of this pretty but hideously invasive bulb.

Shun Geissorhiza aspera. It belongs to the same group as highly invasive oxalis or allium-type of Pesky Weeds Masquerading as Pretty Plants. You have been warned.

Magnolia Serene

Magnolia Serene

Magnolia Serene is opening. This always heralds the end of the deciduous magnolia season for us as it is the last of the major magnolias here to bloom. Alas, a magnolia season that was progressing magnificently was dealt a near death blow two weeks ago when we had a huge wind which lasted more than 24 hours. We are used to wind here – it is the west coast of the Windy Isles after all (New Zealand being marooned in expanses of vast ocean all round means that we are a windy country) but this was more than an ordinary wind. Reminiscent, in fact, of the worst winds we can remember which came as Cyclone Bola 27 years ago. Fortunately the damage was minor though the debris was great. And the later flowering magnolias were something of a casualty. Because Serene was still in bud, it came through unscathed but the rest of the plants in bloom had their season cut short.

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Tikorangi Notes, Friday 30 September, 2010

The ephemeral delight of the erythroniums in flower this week

The ephemeral delight of the erythroniums in flower this week

Latest Posts:
1) Magnolia Athene in all her glory in Plant Collector this week and gratitude for the mid season varieties.

2) New Zealand’s Native Trees by John Dawson and Rob Lucas. Thank you Craig Potton Publishing for not cutting corners, simplifying and dumbing down on the assumption that most of us have the mental capacity and experience of a child.

3) The differing agendas of gardeners, novices and designers (or why I am happy to accommodate plants with a scruffy period which includes deciduous plants and bulbs)

4) Grow it Yourself topic this week is Mark’s absolutely most favourite vegetable – sweetcorn.

5) Clearance special this week is Magnolia grandiflora Little Gem – a snip at $12 but very limited numbers.

6) In Praise of Plunging – a traditional technique from the UK which has its relevance here, in our conditions too.

The pink puffery of Magnolia Serene

The pink puffery of Magnolia Serene

I suggested to Mark that the start of a new year here was marked by the magnolias and early spring but he was pretty adamant that it is the snowdrops that herald the new beginning. The snowdrops have long finished, most of the narcissi are passing over and while the magnolia season continues, it is on the wane – the opening of Serene heralds the end of the season because it is the last of the major ones to flower for us. But temperatures are rising, the rhododendrons are opening and other new plants open every day. The trilliums are a triumph for us here. We are not natural trillium territory (bar two days this winter, we lack the winter chill they prefer) and have to choose planting situations carefully.

Showing off: the trilliums

Showing off: the trilliums

Each flower may be only three petals but when you get the deep red ones blooming with the light passing through, the effort is well worth it. The erythroniums are in full flower. If we don’t get torrential rain, we may get two or even three weeks of pleasure from these short-lived, dainty delights. The countdown to our annual garden festival at the end of October is on so the pressure is mounting.

In a rash moment, I agreed to present at the Waikato Home and Garden Show next Friday and Saturday. My main presentation is entitled “What Makes a Good Garden” (Friday at 12.30 and Saturday at 2.30) and I am also doing a presentation on our annual festival (styled the Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular this year but we will say no more about that, formerly known as the Taranaki Rhododendron and Garden Festival) at 6.30 on Friday and 4.30 on Saturday.

Plant Collector: Magnolia Serene

The very pink Magnolia Serene in full bloom

The very pink Magnolia Serene in full bloom

For us, Serene in full flower heralds the last chapter of the magnolia season each year. It is the latest and the last of the Jury magnolias to flower. It is also the pinkest. This is another of the series named by Felix Jury back in the early 1970s and the original tree now stands around six metres tall and is pyramidal in shape rather than spreading. In full flower, it is just a mass of large rosy pink bowl-shaped blooms.

001Being so late to flower, Serene is an excellent choice for people in colder areas or prone to late frosts. It also tends to miss the worst of the equinoctial winds. Cold conditions will make the plant adjust to blooming even later but Serene does get its flowers through before its foliage. We are picky here – we want deciduous magnolias to mass flower on bare stems before the new season’s leaves unfurl. When the leaves do come, they are a particularly good deep green and tidy in form so Serene stands out as a good summer foliage plant in a way in which few deciduous magnolias do. It will also set a flush of summer flowers which is bonus territory.
Serene was another of the series Felix bred using his wonder breeder parent, slightly embarrassingly named Magnolia Mark Jury. Its other parent is liliiflora.

Tikorangi Notes: August 21, 2010

Magnolia Serene by the pool, 2009

Magnolia Serene by the pool, 2009


The photograph much admired by radio host and landscaper Tony Murrell on Radio Live this morning was the end of season snap of Serene taken last year. We might equally describe this as a fine example of why you do not plant a magnolia beside your swimming pool although in our case, it is why building the swimming pool beside the original Magnolia Serene was not such a brilliant idea of ours. The tree was there first. (Magnolia Diary 13).
Iolanthe, after a storm

Iolanthe, after a storm

Magnolia Lanarth is the first to drop its petals

Magnolia Lanarth is the first to drop its petals

Personally, I prefer the post-storm image of the original Magnolia Iolanthe (Magnolia Diary 9), planted beside our driveway although Lanarth (Magnolia Diary 4) dropping its petals more tidily and conveniently in our park is also a favourite.
Lanarth petal drop

Lanarth petal drop


All this is a little premature this season as we are just entering the new magnolia flowering season – there should be a splendid display out by next weekend.

And as a footnote, the petal drop around our lollipop Fairy Magnolia Blush is a regular delight still in store for this season as the first buds are just opening. (Magnolia Diary 12).

Circles of Fairy Magnolia Blush petals

Circles of Fairy Magnolia Blush petals

Magnolia Diary 14, February 19, 2010

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Click on the Magnolia diary logo above to see all diary entries

Magnolia alba - hardly spectacular flowers but an intoxicating fragance

In our southern hemisphere summer, Michelia alba is in flower. One could never describe alba as being in full flower – it just gently flowers over a long period without ever putting on a mass display. We planted it near our swimming pool so it could perfume the air in the summer months but as it grows ever larger, we are wondering if we have made a mistake. After about eight years, it is already around eight metres tall and showing no sign of slowing down. It has splendid foliage for those in warm enough climates to grow it and the flowers make up for their rather understated (almost insignificant) appearance with their heady fragrance. We have never seen any evidence that alba is fertile, either as seed parent or pollen donor and lean to the belief that it is likely that there is only one clone in existence and that is sterile. We have champaca (believed to be the seed parent of alba on the premise that alba is most likely a natural hybrid) which has attractive colour in the flowers but the forms we have seen are scruffy as garden plants.

Michelia alba, in the centre rear of the photo, has lush foliage but is growing at an alarming rate in our garden

Michelia alba, in the centre rear of the photo, has lush foliage but is growing at an alarming rate in our garden

Mark’s Fairy Magnolia Blush (the first of his michelias to be released) is also summer flowering but these are random blooms which lack the colour of the main spring season. We have decided that the move to lump all magnolia relations, including michelia and mangletia, into the magnolia group is not helpful so we are going to remain with the former nomenclature at this stage. Mark is of the view that michelias are a distinct group which warrants being kept separate. As far as he knows, nobody has yet proven that they can successfully cross michelias with magnolias, or indeed mangletias although some have claimed hybrids. We will wait for proof because we doubt that it is possible to achieve crosses between distinctly different groups without scientific intervention.

Many of the deciduous magnolias are summer flowering at this time but we never get particularly excited about these. They are bonus flowers, tucked in amongst the foliage, and they lack the impact of the spring flowering on bare wood though it should be said that Black Tulip has put up some fine dark flowers this year. Iolanthe, Apollo and Serene all have summer flowers – in fact most soulangeana hybrids will do so. With our very strong sunlight (blame the depletion of the ozone layer along with our clear atmosphere) summer flowers tend to burn.

Summer flowers on Iolanthe

Magnolia Serene has stand out dark foliage. Generally speaking, the foliage on deciduous magnolias does not excite much interest and in summer, most of them are just green trees with relatively large leaves. But when we cast our eyes around a number of trees in our garden landscape, Serene stood out as having deeper colour and appearing glossier than the others nearby. We think it has considerable merit as a specimen tree for its summer foliage as well as its form and spring flowering. Some magnolias stand the test of time and this is one of Felix’s where we are surprised that it has not been picked up more widely in the marketplace. With its later flowering (ref Magnolia Diaries 11 and 12 to see the flowers) it should perform well in cooler climates.

Magnolia Diary 13, September 29, 2009

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The deciduous magnolia flowering is over for another year - the perils of building our swimming pool too near the original Magnolia Serene

The deciduous magnolia flowering is over for another year - the perils of building our swimming pool too near the original Magnolia Serene

The deciduous flowering is over for another year. On a grey day, it can seem a little forlorn. Fortunately, we have other strings to our bow so from here we move on to rhododendrons, and the bulbs are still in full flight. The michelias flower on, and on and on in fact – quieter performers than the deciduous magnolias but more staying power.

In our park, our large Magnolia nitida is in flower, though all but enthusiasts may be a little underwhelmed by the modest yellowish inflorescence. We have it planted beside a very large talauma and a rather large Mangletia insignis (about 40 feet or 12 metres high) which makes an interesting group for dendrologists.

In summer we will return to this diary with some seasonal photos, including Michelia alba which we carefully planted by the swimming pool because its summer fragrance is divine. Alas it is so vigorous and it is gaining stature so quickly that we are wondering if we made a mistake.

Drunk and in possession of wings - this tui was not a happy camper

Drunk and in possession of wings - this tui was not a happy camper

Finally, nothing to do with magnolias but this tui was not a happy camper yesterday. Our native tui feed on nectar and as it ferments, they can at times be found drunk and vulnerable. This one was wobbly, disoriented, land-bound and even retching. Fortunately tui seem to recover more quickly than humans and when we returned to check a few hours later, there was no evidence, either dead or alive. We hope this is a sign that he recovered sufficiently to fly to safety.

Magnolia Diary 12, 15 September 2009

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It is Magnolia Serene which is the stand out plant here in full flower this week. Big, beautiful and very pink and signalling the impending close to the deciduous flowering season for this year. This is the original plant, as bred by Felix Jury here (liliiflora x Mark Jury). The original Iolanthe may shade our vegetable garden; the original Serene drops most of its leaves and flowers into our swimming pool. Such is life when you live surrounded by trees.

Impressively pink - the original Serene

Impressively pink - the original Serene

The early yellows are in flower. While still reasonably sought after in this country as novelty plants (New Zealanders take red magnolias completely for granted but yellows are seen as unusual), the problem with most magnolias with acuminata in the breeding is that they flower too late in the season for us and the leaves have already appeared. Elizabeth, Yellow Fever and Sundance will at least flower on bare wood and are attractive enough, but what most people here expect is a butter yellow Iolanthe (ie very large, bright flowers on bare wood) and that is not anywhere to be seen yet. Instead we have pale primrose, small flowers and strappy flower form on plants that tend to rival timber trees in their rates of growth.

Magnolia Yellow Fever planted on our roadside

Magnolia Yellow Fever planted on our roadside

In New Zealand we have a harsh, bright light and the dreaded hole in the ozone layer down near Antarctica is usually getting larger at this time of the year so our sunlight is not well filtered. We are noticing quite bad burning on the late flowers on a number of magnolias. Liliiflora burns, as do liliiflora hybrids (though not Serene at this stage). It may be that extended flowering characteristics are not all they are cracked up to be here – crispy brown blooms are not a good look.

Interlocking circles of pink michelia petals

Interlocking circles of pink michelia petals

Finally, when conditions are right (no wind and light rain), we are always delighted by the sight of rings of pink petals that fall naturally around the base of our row of Fairy Magnolia Blush (Mark’s pink michelia). It is eyes down for a change, to catch this pretty sight.