Tag Archives: New Zealand magnolias

The Jury magnolia legacy – first published in the RHS Rhododendrons, Camellias and Magnolias 2017 yearbook

Back in 1973, when Mark and I were impoverished university students, his father, Felix, gave us the cheque he had received from Os Blumhardt for the right to release Magnolia ‘Serene’. It was for NZ$150 and that was the only money Felix ever received for any plant he bred. At the same time, Duncan and Davies released his Magnolia ‘Iolanthe’ but, despite being the powerhouse nursery of the southern hemisphere, paying breeders for their plants was never part of their operation. Sometimes we ponder how different the family finances might have been had Felix received even a very small royalty payment for his Phormium ‘Yellow Wave’, but that is another story. The remaining Felix Jury magnolia cultivars were not released until the late 1980s when Mark set up the plant nursery here. With the exception of ‘Vulcan’, where the immediate public response took us by surprise, the releases were all very low key.

Magnolia Apollo

Magnolia Athene

Magnolia Lotus

Magnolia Milky Way

It takes time for magnolias to prove themselves and it is only in the last couple of decades that the Jury magnolias have become known internationally. There aren’t many of them. Felix only named eight of his own breeding – Magnolias ‘Apollo’, ‘Athene’, ‘Atlas’, ‘Iolanthe’, ‘Lotus’, ‘Milky Way’, ‘Serene’ and ‘Vulcan™’ . We don’t include the variety M. ‘Mark Jury’ in that list because it arrived here as a seedling and all Felix did was to grow it and, in due course, name it. Mark vetoed his father’s suggestion of naming a few more because they were too close to ones already selected, although we have a few fine sister seedlings from those breeding lines in the garden here.

In his turn, Mark has named four deciduous magnolias so far – ‘Black Tulip’, ‘Burgundy Star™’, ‘Felix Jury’ and ‘Honey Tulip™’ – though he has raised many more controlled crosses than his father ever did. Records here do not include total numbers of plants raised but certainly Felix never raised a large number – maybe 50 or so. Mark has been much more focussed and a rough guess puts the number of deciduous magnolias raised to flowering size in excess of 1000. If a particular cross shows promise, Mark will locate the plants in places where they have the space to grow to maturity and, as the years pass, the display just gets better. There are a lot of what we call “also-rans” – not destined to be named but too good to chainsaw out. Late winter and early springtime here is simply glorious.

Magnolia Atlas

When it comes to naming a plant, consideration is given to whether it represents a breakthrough in some aspect and is significantly different to anything already named. It must also produce flowers on young plants, bloom on bare wood in our climate, not grow so rapidly as to indicate it will become a forest giant, propagate relatively easily and flower reliably every year while setting buds down the stems to prolong the season. That list may be why Mark has only named four so far.

At the time when Felix started crossing magnolias, there were few varieties available in New Zealand and most were species. He wanted to see if he could get large cup and saucer blooms with good colour, flowering on a young plant. His lucky breeding break came with the cultivar he imported from Hilliers. It was meant to be M. campbellii ssp mollicomata ‘Lanarth’ but when it bloomed for the first time, it was clearly a hybrid, probably ‘Lanarth’ x sargentiana robusta. He named it for his youngest son, Mark Jury. It proved to be an excellent breeder plant and five of Felix’s eight named cultivars used ‘Mark Jury’ as pollen donor.

Magnolia Iolanthe

We rate ‘Iolanthe’ as one of the very best he named. The original plant is still located beside our driveway and has now achieved magnificent stature at about 10 metres high and a canopy the same distance across after 50 years. Every year it takes our breath away with its beauty. The blooms have stayed very large (some cultivars produce smaller blooms once past juvenility) and because it sets flower buds down the stem, even the worst spring storms do not ruin the display for the year. At about two months in flower, it has one of the longest seasons.

Magnolia Serene

Serene is the last of the season to bloom for us and we have always been surprised that this top performing strawberry pink variety has not gained the reputation and market traction it deserves. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and with the passage of time, we think ‘Atlas’ would not meet the selection criteria today. Despite a huge flower, possible unequalled at the time, with good form and a pretty colour, its performance falls short because it only sets buds on the tips of branches. A storm can take out the flowering for the year. That said, it is one that appears to perform well in Britain. ‘Athene’ and ‘Milky Way’ are both wonderful performers but probably too similar to have named both. ‘Lotus’ is lovely but the pure white magnolia field is very crowded now. ‘Apollo’, while abundantly floriferous and more compact in its growth, does not have the same beauty of flower form that the others have.

Magnolia Vulcan

It was ‘Vulcan’ that cemented Felix’s reputation, even if this cultivar has never proven itself in the cooler climes of Britain and northern Europe. You will just have to take our word for it that in milder climates, it can be the most remarkable red colour and, for its time, it represented a colour breakthrough and set the standard for the next generations of red cultivars. We have a remarkable intensity and quality of light in New Zealand even in the depths of winter, and the first red buds to break in July never fail to impress. For many years after we first released this cultivar, we could track its flowering from north to south by the phone calls we received. That is a rare plant.

Over time and with many competing unnamed seedlings of the next generations flowering here, we certainly concede that ‘Vulcan’ blooms do not age gracefully and later flowers are much smaller and in murky purple shades. It appears that those later flowers are the best most British gardeners can ever expect to see in their conditions. Mark is still on the quest for the perfect Vulcan upgrade – a large bloom on a smaller tree, flowering later in the season to extend the climatic range and with colour that ages more gracefully, which means losing the purple undertones that the parentage of ‘Lanarth’ brought in. He is tantalisingly close to pure red but not yet ready to take the plunge and name another in his red series. Having named three so far, a fourth must be something different, special or a significant improvement.

Magnolia Black Tulip

‘Black Tulip’ was the first release of Mark’s cultivars and we were gratified by the immediate public response. Mark’s personal preference is for solid colour in blooms and in the windy climes of New Zealand, we have to select for heavy textured petals and firm blooms that can withstand the equinoctial winds that often strike at peak flowering. ‘Black Tulip’ certainly fitted these criteria and is suitable for smaller gardens though it will never be as bold and showy as grander specimens.

Magnolia Burgundy Star

‘Burgundy Star’ has yet to prove itself overseas. Being three quarter M. liliiflora nigra, the hope is that it may prove to be hardier in colder climates. The original plant in our carpark is exceptional –  fastigiate in its growth which is to its credit as a driveway or courtyard specimen, with a mass of good-sized, red, starry blooms over a long period of time. Only time will tell if this translates to other climates and locations.

Magnolia Felix Jury

Magnolia Felix Jury

So far, ‘Felix Jury’ is the stand-out performer of Mark’s selections. He named it for his father because it was what Felix had been trying to get to – a rich-coloured, large-flowered cup and saucer bloom with a long season. It is a source of pleasure to us that Felix was still alive to see the first blooms. On the first young plants, we described it as rich pink, but with age and maturity, the blooms have deepened to red in our climate and this is a specimen magnolia that just gets better with age and size. We have been delighted to see specimen plants well established in the UK, particularly at Wisley and also The Garden House in Devon. While we haven’t seen those plants in bloom, we are assured they are impressive, though probably more pink than red.

 

Magnolia Honey Tulip

Mark’s latest release is ‘Honey Tulip’, his best yellow cultivar so far. Again the flower shows excellent heavy texture in the petals, unlike the softer texture we see in the American yellow varieties we grow here. The form is different with a solid cup and the colour does not fade out as the season progresses. We are also pleased with the generous bud set we see on the plants here and it does not look as if it will ever get as large as some of the yellows. It is still early days – ask us in another twenty years how we rate it.

The ultimate goal would be to get to a pure yellow cup and saucer bloom of ‘Iolanthe’ or ‘Felix Jury’ size and splendour, along with the performance characteristics of those two cultivars but that is still a long way off and may not be attained in Mark’s lifetime. The pure red magnolia is closer. The deciduous magnolia programme is ongoing here.

The property is planted out in seedlings

The evergreen magnolias are a separate thread. We are with the Chinese – it is much easier to continue to refer to these as michelias and differentiate them from the better known grandifloras. Mark became interested in these 20 years ago and they are very much a work in progress. When he started, there were only a small number of species to work with and even fewer hybrids but he wondered whether he could extend the colour range and the habit of growth to get more garden-friendly options. In the time since, there has been an explosion of new species collected, particularly in China and Vietnam but New Zealand’s borders are now closed to new plants and he has had to rely on the original species he has access to – particularly M. figo, M. doltsopa, M. maudiae and M. laevifolia (formerly known as Michelia yunnanensis). He is not overly worried about this situation because most of the recent discoveries have been tropical and he is keen to increase hardiness overall, not to decrease it by introducing tropical genes. He had already decided that M. champaca and M. x ‘Alba’ – both of which we have here – were blind alleys when it came to his breeding programme.

Fairy Magnolia White

Most of the hardier species are white or cream flowered but the advantage in terms of colour has come through the most common form of M. figo in New Zealand being more colourful than those we have seen in other countries. Our form includes yellow and purple and that has extended the colour range in the hybrids.

Fairy Magnolia Blush

Michelias have a much quicker turnaround than deciduous magnolias and the number of hybrids here already greatly exceeds the number of the latter. A number of the hybrids show exciting promise in colour and flower size and are certainly extending the range. But the selection criteria includes several critical new factors. The hybrids must not set too much seed, they must make foliage growth down the stems and not just on the tips and they must not show the tendency of some michelias to defoliate either at flowering time or in wet spring seasons. Even more problematic are the issues of fragrance and ease of propagation from cutting. There is frequent disappointment. Mark oft bemoans the fact that he can cross two of the most fragrant of michelias and the offspring lack discernible scent. And the best coloured michelias have so far failed the propagation test. He is also after clean colours. With purple and yellow being the available colour genes, there is a disappointing number of murky coloured offspring which are rejected out of hand. There is a long way to go yet and the downstream crosses are getting ever more complex although he continues to work with the same narrow, original species base.

Moving large Fairy Magnolia Whites into the new garden where the plan is two pleached rows

The upshot of this is that only three cultivars have been released to date and none of these show the exciting colour breaks. It is heartening, however, that these three are showing more hardiness than expected, considering the use of two somewhat tender species in M. figo and M. doltsopa. These cultivars are being marketed internationally by our agents, Anthony Tesselaar Plants, under the Fairy Magnolia® branding. ‘Fairy Magnolia Pink’ is a foggii x laevifolia hybrid and brought indubitably pink tones into the range. It is floriferous over a long period of time and particularly good as a clipped specimen. Our row of five clipped lollipops are a real feature and easy to maintain at a set size with an annual hard spring prune and a light autumn trim. On the downside, the foliage is a little more olive green than we would like.

Fairy Magnolia Cream

The selection released as ‘Fairy Magnolia Cream’ is from similar breeding lines and has beautiful flower form, excellent fragrance and foliage in a cleaner hue of green. ‘Fairy Magnolia White’ is different breeding, bringing in more M. doltsopa and is therefore larger growing but with correspondingly larger blooms, also fragrant. We doubt that it is as hardy as the other two and see it more as an improved, garden-friendly version of the M. doltsopa parent. In recent times, we have planted a double avenue of ‘Fairy Magnolia White’ with a view to pleaching them and we have been pleased with how well this cultivar is responding to clipping and training.

A collection of blooms, showing the range in size and colour

The breeding programme will continue. There is a long way to go yet, although really what Mark would like is for one of our children to come home and take it into the next generation. With all three of our human offspring living overseas, this is one aspect of the breeding programme that is not looking hopeful.

Fairy Magnolia White

Apollo (probably liliiflora nigra hybrid x ‘Lanarth’, bred by Felix Jury) Released 1990

Athene (lennei alba x ‘Mark Jury’, bred by Felix Jury) 1988

Atlas (lennei x ‘Mark Jury’, bred by Felix Jury) 1989

Black Tulip (‘Vulcan’ x, bred by Mark Jury) 1998

Burgundy Star™ (liliiflora nigra x ‘Vulcan’, bred by Mark Jury) 2006

Fairy Magnolia Blush (M. laevifolia x foggii hybrid, bred by Mark Jury) 2008

Fairy Magnolia Cream (M. laevifolia x foggii hybrid, bred by Mark Jury) 2013

Fairy Magnolia white (M. laevifolia x doltsopa, bred by Mark Jury) 2013

Felix Jury (‘Atlas’ x ‘Vulcan’, bred by Mark Jury) 2000

Honey Tulip™ (‘Yellow Bird’ x ‘Iolanthe’, bred by Mark Jury) 2013

Iolanthe (lennei x ‘Mark Jury’, bred by Felix Jury) 1970s

Lotus (lennei alba x ‘Mark Jury’, bred by Felix Jury) 1988

Milky Way (lennei alba x ‘Mark Jury’, bred by Felix Jury) 1988

Serene (liliflora x ‘Mark Jury’, bred by Felix Jury) 1970s

Vulcan™ (liliiflora hybrid x ‘Lanarth’, bred by Felix Jury) 1989

Fairy Magnolia Blush – the original stock plants, now lollipops

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Tikorangi Notes: Friday 7 September, 2012

Just another unnamed seedling, as we say here

Just another unnamed seedling, as we say here

Latest posts:
1) Repeating plants throughout the garden – does this unify the garden? Maybe not….
2) Magnolia Burgundy Star – a useful fastigiate form and great red flowers.
3) Garden lore – a quote on colour from Edward Augustus Bowles, possibly even more relevant now than in 1914 when he wrote it. And this week’s handy hint on boiling water instead of weedkiller.

The mid season magnolias are simply magnificent. While there is an abundance of other seasonal colour in the garden – flowering cherries, spring bulbs left, right and centre, camellias, Kurume azaleas, hellebores, early rhododendrons, even humble little polys and prims – the magnolias hold centre stage. The early varieties have all been, done and gone now. The mids are at their peak, the late varieties are opening. If you have been planning a visit to see the magnolias, you might be wise not to leave it much longer past this weekend.

More Iolanthe

More Iolanthe

New post on Magnolia Diary.

Magnolia Mark Jury - what else could it be?

Magnolia Mark Jury – what else could it be?

Three years ago, I charted the magnolia flowering season here in a Magnolia Diary. Just posted is an update explaining why, despite raising hundreds of different magnolias over a period of 60 years here, we have only ever named eleven – eight of Felix Jury’s breeding and three of Mark’s (with a fourth in the pipeline). In the meantime, our magnolia display here goees from strength to strength, with both named varieties (our own, and others) and also-rans from the breeding programme.

Sweetheart is not one of ours, though we would be happy if it was

Sweetheart is not one of ours, though we would be happy if it was

Magnolia Diary 15 (but the first for 2012) August 26, 2012

It might as well be Felix, but it's not

It might as well be Felix, but it’s not

Baby Tulip - a small version of Black Tulip

Baby Tulip – a small version of Black Tulip

Magnolia time. Many are surprised to hear that Felix Jury only ever named eight magnolias. Mark has only named and released three so far (with a fourth in the pipeline) despite raising and trialling hundreds. Why so few? We are picky. With the benefit of hindsight, we would probably have released only seven of Felix’s eight. Atlas was named for flower size but really is not up to the quality of the others in terms of long term performance.

We can do plenty of ring-ins, generic copies, slight improvements or variations. But while roses and camellias are like buses (there will be another one along in a few minutes), we see magnolias as being for the long haul. They are nowhere near as easily hiffed out and replaced and most people can only fit one or two into their garden. To name something new means it must be a breakthrough, a major improvement on what is already available. It takes years to trial and select a new magnolia and we like to be very confident with our releases. We took another walk around this afternoon, looking at the lookalikes. At this early to mid season stage, it is still the stronger colours that dominate. I will update as the pales and whites come into full bloom.

Or how about Bambino Tulip?

Or how about Bambino Tulip?

It's not Black Tulip, but it might as well be

It’s not Black Tulip, but it might as well be


Genie to the left, our seedling to the right

Genie to the left, our seedling to the right

Ruby

Ruby

Our equivalent of Ruby

Our equivalent of Ruby

Lanarth sets the standard.  Is this significantly better? Probably not.

Lanarth sets the standard. Is this significantly better? Probably not.

Plenty of generic soulangeanas here

Plenty of generic soulangeanas here

Too much like Iolanthe

Too much like Iolanthe

But maybe there is a future in patio magnolias?

But maybe there is a future in patio magnolias?

Tikorangi Tui tui tui

Latest posts: Friday 17 August, 2012

1) Be bold with colour. White is not always right. Safe, but often dull.
2) The first a new series: Garden Lore. Quotes and hints – random and eclectic maybe, but I hope interesting and helpful.
3) Plant Collector this week is on pretty little Camellia Sweet Jane.
4) My first ever video on You Tube – two minutes of many tui in one of our campanulata cherry trees plus birdsong.

I figured yesterday, as I took these photos, that some (though fewer in number these days) favour floral wallpaper in their home. Here we have floral skypaper instead. Sometimes I worry that many of my magnolia photographs are taken from below, looking up to the sky whereas other people’s magnolia photos are taken looking down on the individual blooms. The reason is that so many of our magnolias are now achieving quite some stature so our close up view does tend to be looking upwards at them. But no matter which way you look at them, magnolias make a breathtakingly lovely display. We still have many which are just opening their first blooms or not even showing colour yet and we look forward to the season continuing right through September. Our early display, in full bloom now, is heavily dominated by the stronger coloured reds, purples and deepest pinks – the two photos here of unnamed seedlings – which we grow so well here. We appear to get deeper colours here than other parts of the world which is presumably related to soil conditions and to the quality of very clear, pure light we have. Mid and later season magnolias are more inclined to the pales and whites.

As a contrast to the candy pinks, I photographed the lachenalias and muscari (grape hyacinths) below which nestle in around the trunk of one of our old pine trees. The muscari evoke childhood memories for me. I admit that Lachenalia aloides is not my favourite lachenalia – they are a little garish, looking maybe as if they made from plastic and sold at a cheap store but they provide a cheerful splash of colour in a naturalised setting.

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 Athene

Magnolia Athene in her glory

Magnolia Athene in her glory


Thank goodness for the mid season magnolias this year. There we were, as usual, admiring the early season ones in flower when a once in a hundred year event hit here – snow followed by a killer frost in late August. The early bloomers did not like it one bit. But the next flush rose to the challenge and their flowering was unaffected. This one is Magnolia Athene, a particularly lovely variety with big ivory white flowers sporting a violet pink base. It is what is called a cup and saucer form. When open, the outer layer of petals drops a little to form the saucer, while the inner petals keep a tight cup form. Botanically, magnolias don’t actually have much in the way of petals, they have tepals which look like petals but that tends to confuse all but the most enthusiastic gardener.

Bred in the early 1960s, Athene is one of a small series from the late Felix Jury in his quest for new plants which would carry the good aspects of the classic campbellii magnolias but flower on young plants and not grow as large. It should flower within a year of planting out. The parents are magnolias lennei alba (which is a very tidy, smaller tree with pure cream flowers) and Mark Jury (which is a large growing tree with very large, heavy textured flowers in lilac tones). Athene was a significant advance on the parents and puts on a magnificent display with its bi-coloured blooms. It will eventually reach about 5 metres with an upright habit and the flowers are pleasantly scented.