Tag Archives: Mark and Abbie Jury

When 1+1 equal more that 2. Magnolia parents and offspring.

I added a postscript to last week’s post about blind pruning camellias. After comments on that post, I added in chainsaw pruning tips (cutting back overgrown camellias to ground level or just above) and a word of caution about hygiene with cutting tools. You can find it at the end of the post if you are contemplating more extreme, less refined pruning.

Today’s post is heavy on photos. Magnolia photos to celebrate the season. I haven’t sat down before and collated images to show the parents of our named cultivars, lined up alongside their progeny. When Felix started crossing magnolias back in the early 1960s, he wanted to see if he could get the cup and saucer flower form of M. campbellii, that would flower from a younger age, on plants that would stay smaller and with more colours.

Magnolia Mark Jury  with a larger, more robust flower and longer flowering season than either of its parents.

He didn’t start with many options. There were not many different magnolias available in NZ at the time – nothing like today’s range – but he had a unique tool in his kit. That was the magnolia he named for his youngest son, Mark Jury.

Magnolia sargentiana robusta on the left, ‘Lanarth’ on the right, the parents of ‘Mark Jury’

More Mark

‘Mark Jury’ came to him from Hillier Nurseries as a seedling of ‘Lanarth’ (M.campbellii var mollicomata ‘Lanarth’, to be precise), costing 18 shillings which was quite a lot back in the 1950s. When it flowered, it was not ‘Lanarth’. Discussions with Hilliers – slow discussions by hand-written letters as was the way back then – determined that it was most likely to be a cross between ‘Lanarth’ and M. sargentiana robusta. It proved to be an important breeder parent for him.

Magnolia ‘Lennei’ alba crossed onto ‘Mark Jury’ was one of his first efforts. (For the technically minded, ‘Lennei’ is more correctly M. X soulangeana ‘Lennei’, itself a cross of M.denudata and M.liliiflora).

It resulted in the beautiful ‘Athene’


and ‘Milky Way’.

Swapping to the pink form of ‘Lennei’ crossed on to ‘Mark Jury’, he raised and named


and Iolanthe. This particular cultivar is one of the enduring stars in Felix’s collection.

The picture on his use of M.liliiflora is not as clear. He had the dark form of M. liliiflora ‘Nigra’, a paler pink form of the same species and, it seems, a liliiflora hybrid in the garden and over time, he grew somewhat hazy in his recollections of which plant in the garden he used for which cross. One or other form of M liliiflora crossed with ‘Lanarth’ gave two notable results.

The first was ‘Apollo’.

The second was the colour breakthrough in ‘Vulcan’ that paved the way for a multitude of magnolias into the future, getting to the red tones.

Again, an unspecified form of M.liliifora but crossed this time on his old favourite ‘Mark Jury’ resulted in one named cultivar of note.

Magnolia ‘Serene’.

When Mark moved in to the next generation, starting by using Felix’s hybrids, it was his cross between ‘Atlas’ and ‘Vulcan’ that closed the circle his father started.

Magnolia ‘Felix Jury’ was what Felix had been wanting to see if he could reach and he lived long enough to see it happen. It does of course have ‘Mark Jury’ in its parentage through ‘Atlas’. To be honest, the flowers do not always look this red. I took this photo last week and we admit that it is ‘Felix’ at its most sublime.

Mark has had one notable success with his yellow crosses – ‘Yellow Bird’ with ‘Iolanthe’. ‘Yellow Bird’ is not evergreen – it just flowers at the same time as its new leaves appear in our climate and its flowers are small but a good colour. He was pleased to get a smaller growing tree that flowers on bare wood and that has been named ‘Honey Tulip.

‘Honey Tulip’ is a good stepping stone. Mark’s dream is to get the equivalent of ‘Iolanthe’ – a large cup and saucer bloom in pure yellow. Whether he has enough years left to achieve this is as yet unknown. It may fall to the next generation of hybridists to realise that vision.

Festival a-go-go

It is official. We are reopening our garden for the ten days of Taranaki Garden Festival – and only for those ten days from October 30 to November 8. In fact, we are garden number one in the programme. We attended the launch on Thursday evening and there were asparagus rolls. I only mention this because the asparagus roll shares a special position of nostalgia in NZ catering history on a par with Maggi onion dip and slightly less controversial than the Otago and Southland cheese roll. But I digress.

Some of us braved a cold winter evening for the launch

but there were refreshments, including retro asparagus rolls to the top right

In honour of this occasion, I have spent quite a bit of time updating the garden information on this site. It took me more hours than I anticipated, that I would be grateful if you could check it out and make me feel that the time spent was worthwhile. Click on The Garden tab at the top of this page.

The printed programme is now out and the information is all on line here. You can request a free festival programme. If you plan to attend, it is worth getting a hard copy of the programme for the map. You can not rely on mobile phone reception throughout Taranaki and I say this as somebody who lives in one of the black spots.

There will be no plant sales. We left all that behind us years ago, much to our relief. Expect a terse response if you ask us.

However, there will be garden tours at no additional charge (Friday 30 October, Wednesday 4 November and Friday 6 November at 11am). Taking large groups around gardens is often described as an exercise in herding kittens. Mark professes himself to be in awe of my ability to head off around the garden with a large number of people and then emerge an hour later with almost the same number. I hasten to assure readers that I do not achieve this by publicly shaming any who wish to drop off the end. As far as I know, they stay voluntarily.

Mark and I are also offering two workshops. There is an additional charge for these and you must pre-book because numbers are strictly limited. You will have Mark’s and my undivided attention along with morning tea. I shall bake cakes for these occasions and the chances of proper coffee rather than instant are high.

New Directions with Sunny Perennials

For over a decade, we have been looking closely at modern trends in perennial gardening, particularly in England. Variously called the Dutch New Wave, New Perennials and the New Naturalism, we have analysed and experimented with these ideas in the very different conditions of coastal Taranaki, culminating in the planting of an acre of new summer gardens.

Join us for morning tea and a talk on key points we have distilled from visiting over 90 gardens in England, France and Italy, tracking the work of six key contemporary designers and how we have applied this in their own garden.

Numbers strictly limited. Bookings essential. $25 includes garden entry fee.

Monday 2 November 10.15am Book here.

(I have never kept a list of all the gardens we have visited but I did a quick tally of those in England, France and Italy and I really-o truly-o did get past 90. That is not an exaggeration.)

Meadow Theory 101

While charmed by what are often called ‘wildflower meadows’, we knew that they would soon become a weedy mess in our conditions so set about looking at different meadow styles, the underlying theories and management techniques that apply in our conditions with verdant year-round growth. We have now established bulb hillsides, changed the formerly mown park into an actively managed meadow and, most recently, adapted a neglected area of the garden to a perennial meadow.

Join us for morning tea as we share what they have learned and the fine balance needed in managing a sustainable meadow with environmental benefits while avoiding an out of control, weedy wilderness.

Numbers strictly limited. Bookings essential. $25 includes garden entry fee.

Sunday 1 November 10.15am Book here.

Our sunken garden

There are 40 gardens open with related events but there is a whole lot more to the festival this year. There is also the Sustainable Backyards Trail with its focus on food production and creative approaches to sustainability and self-sufficiency.  And the Taranaki Arts Trail which had to be postponed from earlier in the year because of Covid restrictions – 85 artists around the province opening their studios to visitors.  Both of these trails are included in the garden festival programme.

Then there is Feast Festival Taranaki – Garden to Plate – for those who like to feed the inner person on good food, mostly in the evenings. That is local restaurants using local produce to create special menus and related events. I am not sure that their website is up and running yet but you can capture the flavour, so to speak, on their Facebook page. Finally, starting on November 5, a new theatre-based festival will start. Called RESET 2020, it is a re-set after Covid forced the cancellation of other planned events and overseas performers. The programme, featuring NZ performers, will be announced in a few weeks.

As I explained all this to Mark, he described it as a ten out of ten on the befuddlement scale and that comment alone illustrates why I am still married to this man. Suffice to say, you can visit our garden and there is plenty more to entertain you in the wider area.

With the big upsurge in domestic tourism at this time, it may pay to make plans early if you are visiting from outside the region. Postscript for overseas readers: sorry, this is all of no relevance to you. Even if you wanted to, you can not come. Flights to NZ remain few and far between and you have to be a NZ citizen or permanent resident to get in (bar a few essential workers). Even then, all incoming passengers have to go into government quarantine for 14 days and it seems to be the luck of the draw as to whether you get confined in a five star hotel or one that is more modest. But we are now free of Covid, bar the quarantine cases at the border, and have been for over ten weeks. Life here is back to normal – no masks, no PPE, no physical distancing required, no restrictions bar those at the border. This situation has been hard-won and there aren’t many New Zealanders willing to risk the alternatives as we look at the grim situations around the world.  It seems there is a long way to go in this pandemic yet. May those of you overseas stay safe and well.

Things that go bump in the night

I was quite taken by this sight of epiphytes on a cornus tree down in the park. It is a natural occurrence here that I have written about before  – the establishment over decades of a matrix of interdependent growths spread by wind and birds which can thrive because of our particular climate.

Mark then asked me if I had seen the maple lawn. I hadn’t but there was the result of a branch on high collapsing under the weight of epiphytes, clipping the maple tree for which that small enclosure is named.

What you are looking at is somewhere close to three cubic metres of collapsed branch and epiphytic growth so there is a lot of it to clear. We had been watching that branch but as it was a good eight metres up and almost certainly rotten, the dangers of trying to remove it were potentially greater than leaving it to nature to take its course.

Even more two dimensional than it was just last week

I am amused by the small maple with its wonderful gnarled form. It has been somewhat one-sided for many years. In spring and summer, it forms a curtain of fine, burgundy foliage from its top to the base, but mostly on the side that faces the light. Now it is fully two dimensional. What few branches were on the shady side were snapped off by the falling debris. All I will do is trim any ugly, snapped branches back to the trunk. We can live with a fully one-sided maple tree.

This, too, will fall in due course

There is more to fall from above but it seems unlikely that will hit the little maple unless the remaining trunk snaps at the base. The tree beneath those epiphytes is a fairly unremarkable Australian native that neither Mark nor I can name, though Mark surprised me with the random information that he understands it has some culinary uses in traditional Aboriginal diets.

Sometimes I think that I forget to look up so this lovely sight above surprised me afresh, as it does every autumn. There is much to be said for a multi-layered garden as long as you keep looking at the various layers and not just at ground and eye-level.

Autumn at Tikorangi

Reopening the garden after seven years

The Rimu Avenue

It’s official, more or less. We are reopening the garden later this year but just for the ten days of the Taranaki Garden Festival.  If you have been hoping to visit, those dates are October 30 to November 8. After seven years of being closed, it feels the right time to open again but for strictly limited periods of time.

The old garden remains more or less as visitors from past times may recall – the Rimu Avenue, sunken garden, rockery, avenue gardens and other house gardens.

No longer mown park, now a meadow

The park has been transformed to a meadow over the past seven years.

Opening the new summer gardens for public viewing

The new summer gardens are ready to be seen. We refer to these individually as the borders, the court garden, the caterpillar garden, the Iolanthe garden and the lily border (although the lily border will just be lily shoots in November). Collectively, these are close to an acre of sunny gardens planted predominantly in perennials.

We will offer a series of garden tours and workshops to be scheduled at that time – details to follow.

There will be no plant sales – we are well and truly over that and no longer produce any plants except for our own use or as part of Mark’s plant breeding programme.

We are hoping to be really busy for those ten day and it will be a pleasure to meet some of the regular readers of this site.

Way up high, where the birds fly

There is an entire ornithological condominium in the Queen palm at this time of the year. We know this because it is also the time of year when we retire to our Darby and Joan chairs on the front porch for the pre-dinner drink, As we sit gazing out to the garden, the flurry of feathered activity in that particular location is unmistakeable. There is a lot of coming and going.

The palm is Syagrus romanzoffiana, a fine South American variety.

Syagrus romanzoffiana

The nests are way up high – a good fifteen metres or more. Sadly, when fledglings fall or are pushed out of the nests, they can not survive that drop and we get a few fatalities lying around the base of the tree. But every year, we are surprised by just how many birds are occupying their nest apartments way up high. Mark has better identification skills than me so I will take his word for it that there are miners, starlings and sparrows nesting in amongst the fronds but we have not managed to work out how many of each there are. These are all birds that have been introduced to New Zealand.

The rent collector

But what is the kereru doing there, I asked him as I zoomed the camera in on the unmistakeable figure of our native wood pigeon.  Quick as a flash came the reply: “Collecting rent.”

Our Darby and Joan vantage point