Tag Archives: red magnolias

All the reds

Magnolia 'Felix Jury'

Magnolia ‘Felix Jury’

August belongs to the red magnolias here. They start flowering in July for us but peak this month with September leaning more to the pinks, whites and yellows. While others may delight in one or two red magnolias, we get them en masse. For every named variety, there are many sister seedlings that will never be released but keep on growing and flowering each year. Magnolia trees just get bigger and better as the years go by so the annual display keeps on getting more spectacular.

Magnolia liliiflora 'Nigra'

Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’

When Felix Jury, transferred the pollen of Magnolia ‘Lanarth’ onto Magnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’ in the early 1960s, I doubt very much that he contemplated a significant breakthrough in the international world of magnolias which would bring fame – though not fortune. He just wanted to see if he could get to large red flowers. Lanarth (technically M. campbellii var. mollicomata ‘Lanarth’) has lovely flower form and at its best is a magnificent purple on a handsome tree. M. liliiflora ‘Nigra’ can have good red colour but with small flowers on a shrubby, spreading plant, it is not showy.

Magnolia 'Vulcan'

Magnolia ‘Vulcan’

The best of the progeny he named Magnolia ‘Vulcan’ and for the next decades, it stood proudly on its own as a major step along the way to red magnolias. Sure, it is not a pure red and the later season flowers fade out to a somewhat murky purple. There is always room for improvement but Felix laid the foundations for what is following now and he showed that a determined, self-taught, hobby plantsman at the bottom of the world could make a major contribution to the international magnolia scene.

Magnolia 'Black Tulip'

Magnolia ‘Black Tulip’

Magnolia 'Burgundy Star'

Magnolia ‘Burgundy Star’

It is perhaps not widely recognised in this country that New Zealand has led the way with red magnolias Our spring display is arguably the best in the world. For reasons yet to be determined, we get deeper and stronger colours here, certainly than in the UK and Europe. There, they are accustomed to white, pink and now yellow magnolias, but the impact of the red types that are now relatively common here never fails to stun international visitors who come in spring. Felix Jury paved the way with Vulcan. His youngest son, Mark – the man to whom I have been married for more decades than we like to tally – continued building on this foundation, as has fellow Taranaki magnolia breeder, Vance Hooper.

Mark’s quest is a pure red magnolia, losing the purple tones that dog the earlier hybrids. He is getting very close – not quite there yet, but close enough to think that it is achievable. Like his father before him, Mark prefers large flowers with solid colour both inside and outside the petals (technically tepals).

Magnolia 'Genie'

Magnolia ‘Genie’

Vance Hooper is going down a slightly different track and shows a liking for bicoloured flowers. In magnolias this often means a paler inner petal. He is also actively selecting for smaller growing trees which are floriferous over a long period of time, often with smaller flowers. His best known red cultivar to date is Magnolia Genie but he too has a whole range of red seedlings under observation and a number of other named varieties already released.

Felix named one purple – Apollo – and one into the red tones, Vulcan. Mark has named only three reds so far – Black Tulip, Burgundy Star and Felix Jury. Of these, Burgundy Star is arguably the reddest but it is the one he named for his father that brings us greatest pleasure. As a juvenile plant, it started off with OTT giant pink blooms but as it matured, the colour deepened and we now get enormous red flowers – though I admit they fade out to pink. This magnolia represents what Felix himself was trying to get to – a rich coloured, very large bloom of the Iolanthe-type.

It is a source of quiet satisfaction to us that Felix lived long enough to see his son achieve this outcome and it was for this reason that Mark named it for his father. We were most gratified to learn that it has been given an Award of Garden Merit by Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society.

I have never forgotten the customer who came in to buy a magnolia some years ago. She didn’t want a red one, was sick of seeing them – too common, she declared. No, she wanted a white one. I think I remained steadfastly polite but as our forest of colour blooms each August, I rememer her blissful ignorance.

First published in the August issue of New Zealand Gardener.

'Lanarth" is in full flower and looking particularly fine this week

‘Lanarth” is in full flower and looking particularly fine this week

Floral Skypaper – the garden in August

Magnolia Felix Jury

Magnolia Felix Jury

Not for us the refinement of declaring we garden for foliage and form. Give us floral extravaganza, we say, and August obliges. In the deciduous magnolias, it is the reds that dominate. By the end of the month and well into September, the softer pinks and whites come into their own but at the start, we have an unrivalled display of the stronger colours which just gets better every year as the trees get ever larger. Floral sky-paper, I call it when looking up from below. I say it is an unrivalled display because nowhere else in the world gets the same intensity of red in these magnolia, nor have they done the breeding on them that has been done in this country over the past 40 years. First Felix Jury, now Mark Jury and also Vance Hooper have pushed the boundaries with the reds. Mark was very pleased to find recently that Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society has given an Award of Garden Merit to the magnolia he bred and named for his father, ‘Felix Jury’. While we admit to being biased, it still takes our breath away each season.

Mark's new 'Fairy Magnolia White'

Mark’s new ‘Fairy Magnolia White’

It is also michelia time – or as they have been reclassified botanically, magnolias. Do not confuse them with the evergreen grandiflora magnolias which are the summer flowering trees with big, glossy, leathery leaves. I admit we still call them michelias in conversation or we go with the “Fairy Magnolia” branding that has been placed on Mark’s new cultivars. Because michelias flower with their leaves, they are not as individually spectacular as the deciduous magnolias but they are a wonderful addition to the spring garden.

Mark has been breeding michelias for coming up to two decades now and we have many hundreds, maybe over 1000 of them, planted around our property. Out of all those, he has only named and released three so far. Fairy Magnolia White is the earliest of the season to open and has the loveliest star flower as well as being strongly fragrant. There is a purity in such white flowers, especially when contrasted with deep green foliage and wonderful velvet brown buds. One of the breeding advances has been to eliminate the tendency of some cultivars to drop their leaves and defoliate after flowering. Readers with Michelia doltsopa ‘Silver Clouds’ may recognise this trait.

???????????????????????????????Nothing excites the tui more than the Prunus campanulata. These are somewhat controversial, especially in warm northern areas, because too many of them set seed freely, threatening to become noxious weeds. Both the tui and we would be grieved to see all campanulatas banned, though we are vigilant weeders on the germinating seed. We have a number of different trees that come into flower in sequence and we can have literally scores of fiercely territorial tui bickering and fighting in these trees as they try and claim their feeding space. There are times it can appear as if the trees are dancing with the tui.

Until a whole lot more work is done on selecting and marketing sterile forms of campanulatas (in other words, they don’t set viable seed so will never become weedy), if you live in Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Marlborough or the West Coast, where regional councils are understandably touchy on this topic, look for Prunus Pink Clouds or Prunus Mimosa which are sterile options.
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From the big to the small – narcissi season is in full swing here. The little pictures they create give wonderful detail in a big garden. We have such a problem with narcissi fly that we struggle with the later flowering hybrids which comprise most of what is sold through garden centres (commonly called daffodils). The dwarf forms tend to flower earlier so they are over and going dormant when the narcissi fly are on the wing later in spring. The little cyclamineus ones, with their swept back skirts, seem to have a look of perpetual surprise. We are delighted with how well they are naturalising on our grassy banks where conditions are harder than in cultivated garden areas.
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We looked enviously at Russell Fransham’s magnificent bananas in the June issue.
They are a pretty marginal crop this far south and as we live 5 km from the coast, we have to take extra care and cover them in winter. We do this with giant bamboo frames and old shade cloth. A bunch of 50 is a triumph for us so we were in awe of Russell’s 200. We won’t remove the covers from ours until later in spring, just to be on the safe side. I call these constructions here the Theatre of the Banana.

First published in the August issue of New Zealand Gardener and reprinted here with their permission.

The story of the red magnolias

Vulcan to the left, Lanarth to the right

Vulcan to the left, Lanarth to the right

Few people realise that the story of the red magnolias is a New Zealand story. Probably even fewer realise that when it comes to stronger colours in magnolias, we get the best colour in the world here.

I am talking about deciduous magnolias. The evergreen grandiflora types are resolutely white in bloom and adding colour to the softer-leafed, evergreen michelias is very much a work in progress. But deciduous reds, we do well.

Most deciduous magnolias are in the white and pink colour range and very lovely many of them are too. But with many plant genus, there is always that quest to extend the range of flower form and colour, to build on what happens in nature to get a better performing, showier garden plant. Some of it is about pushing boundaries to see what can be done. A truly blue rose is still an unfulfilled quest but it is highly likely it will come sooner or later.

Some would argue that we do not yet have truly red magnolias and there is truth in that. There is no scarlet, no fire engine red. All the red varieties on the market still retain a blue cast to them and fade out to pink or purple tones rather than to the orange end of the colour spectrum. But if you line one of the red magnolias up against a purple one, it is clear that they are a different colour.

This (liliiflora 'Nigra')

This (liliiflora ‘Nigra’)

I started by saying that the story of red magnolias is a New Zealand story. In fact it started as our family story. Back in the 1970s, Felix Jury wondered if he could get a large flowered, solid coloured red magnolia on a smaller growing tree. He started with the red species – M. liliifora ‘Nigra’. In itself, ‘Nigra’ is a nice enough, low spreading magnolia but nothing showy. He crossed it with the very showy, indubitably purple ‘Lanarth’ (technically M. campbellii var. mollicamata ‘Lanarth’). The rest, as they say, is history.

crossed with this (Lanarth)

crossed with this (Lanarth)

‘Vulcan’ took the magnolia world by storm. This was the break in colour and form. It is not perfect. We know that. The flowers do not age gracefully. It flowers too early in the season for some areas. It does not develop its depth of colour or size of bloom in colder climates and is a shadow of its own self in most UK and European destinations. But after more than 20 years, it is still hugely popular and very distinctive, particularly in Australia and New Zealand. It set the standard and it opened the door to other cultivars.

... and the result was this: Vulcan

… and the result was this: Vulcan

In due course, but slowly, slowly, Mark followed on from his father. He raised hundreds of seedlings and named ‘Black Tulip’ (the darkest of the reds), ‘Felix Jury’ and ‘Burgundy Star’.

Fellow breeder, Vance Hooper, started his programme on the reds and he has named several. The best known is ‘Genie’. Like Mark, he is continuing determinedly down the red magnolia line in the quest for perfection, although improvement or variation will do as steps along the way.

There are other reds on the NZ market now, though none from sustained breeding programmes to match those undertaken by Mark and Vance.

Black Tulip - the first of the second generation red magnolias

Black Tulip – the first of the second generation red magnolias

It appears that it is ‘Black Tulip’ that has enabled the rise of new selections in UK and Europe. It sets seed and every man and their dog is now raising seed and naming selections. Mark is a little wry as he comments that he raised hundreds of plants to get one ‘Black Tulip’ whereas others raise a few seed and name several. He has an ever-decreasing level of patience for amateurs who, as he says, “raise five seedlings and name six of them” based on the first or second flowering only, when he is still assessing seedlings which are 20 years old and showing their adult form, habit and performance.

So New Zealand is about to lose its position of world domination in the red magnolias. But we still get better colour here than others do overseas. There is no certainty yet as to whether that is related to our mild climate, our soils, the root stock used or the quality of light – likely a combination of all. ‘Felix Jury’, which can flower strong red for us is more an over-sized pink flamingo so far in European gardens. We are just relieved that it achieves full-sized flowers and plenty of them, even if it is not red in their conditions.

Magnolia Felix Jury at its best here

Magnolia Felix Jury at its best here

The quest for truer reds continues. A red that loses the magenta hue. Mark is assessing several with which he is quietly very pleased. They are not scarlet but they are an improvement in colour. Just don’t hold your breath. This is a long haul.

Finally, while NZ leads the world in reds, it was USA which gave us yellow magnolias. These all descend from one yellow American species – M. acuminata. I just say that for the record. Credit where credit is due.

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

Plant Collector: Magnolia Burgundy Star

Magnolia Burgundy Star in full glory

Magnolia Burgundy Star in full glory

It is perhaps not widely realised that New Zealand leads the world when it comes to red magnolias, both in terms of breeding them and in the intensity of colour we get. We put this down to a combination of soil conditions and light. What flowers with good rich colour here can look pretty washed out and murky at times in the UK and Europe. New Zealanders tend to take the red colours for granted while magnolia enthusiasts overseas turn green with envy.

This one is Burgundy Star. It forms a narrow pillar shaped tree, not wider than two metres maximum. Because of this shape (described as fastigiate), it makes a splendid feature where space is limited, such as beside driveways. It gives height without much width. The flowers are towards the stellata (or star) magnolias in form but much larger and with firmer petals so they don’t get as floppy. And red. The stellatas are predominantly white, sometimes tinged pink. Because it sets flower buds down the stem, the season is extended. Magnolias which only set buds on the tips have a big display and are then pretty much over for the season.

Any of the deep coloured magnolias look best when planted in a position where the flowers are viewed with the light shining from behind.

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

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 Notes: August 27, 2011

Magnolia sargentiana robusta came through last week's winter unscathed

Magnolia sargentiana robusta came through last week's winter unscathed

The reticulata camellias are in full bloom

The reticulata camellias are in full bloom


R. protistum var. giganteum "Pukeiti" - with the frosted version just visible behind

R. protistum var. giganteum "Pukeiti" - with the frosted version just visible behind

Tikorangi notes: August 27, 2011
Last week it snowed, followed by a frost in the coldest few days we can ever remember. This week it is indubitably spring. Certainly there is damage in the garden – many of the early magnolias and michelias did not appreciate it at all, though M. sargentiana robusta appears to have come through unscathed. The same cannot be said of the big-leafed rhododendrons. I was searching to find an undamaged bloom and Mark felt that one of my shots of an R. grande hybrid showed we could rename it as Hokey Pokey (a reference to a favourite NZ icecream which has streaks of butterscotch coloured candy throughout). The big leafs have gone the same way as Magnolia Lanarth – 2011 may be the least memorable flowering ever. The campanulata cherries are alive with native tui, the reticulata camellias are in peak flower, the lovely daffodils continue to flower in succession and, just to prove that even in frost and snow, our climate can’t be all that bad, a vireya rhododendron, R. konori, is flowering beautifully and completely untouched in the rose garden area.
The beautiful, fragrant and touchy vireya R. konori flowers on regardless

The beautiful, fragrant and touchy vireya R. konori flowers on regardless


Mark has been poddling about with his calanthe orchids while I am grooming the rockery. Winter pruning is complete (fruit trees, hydrangeas, roses, wisterias and the like). Now we are laying mulch on many of the garden beds – we favour our home made compost for this.
Our first garden visitors for the season have started arriving but if you want to see the magnolias at their peak this year, hold off for another week or two to allow more to come out. That said, Magnolias Felix Jury and Black Tulip are recovering well from the earlier ravages by the weather and there are some lovely flowers showing now.
Magnolia Black Tulip - for those who prefer a more understated size of flower

Magnolia Black Tulip - for those who prefer a more understated size of flower

Tikorangi Diary: Thursday August 18

The lovely blue Lachenalia glaucina

The lovely blue Lachenalia glaucina

The coldest spell of winter weather we can remember still continues. While Mark was entranced by the unbelievable event of snow falling here on Monday, there is no doubt that the unusual experience of a major hailstorm followed by an exceptionally heavy frost, culminating in snow and a second frost this week has knocked the early magnolia display. Magnolia Lanarth has been particularly badly hit and we may just have to look back to previous years to remind ourselves of how fantastic it usually is. (Check out the Magnolia Diary I kept two years ago). Usually we are peaking with the first flush of magnolias in bloom around now and we have an unsurpassed display of red flowered types at this time. Not yet. Many of the new cultivars set flower buds down the stem so will open fresh blooms but it appears that we will be particularly grateful for the second peak we get in early September with the mid season varieties, including the magnificent Iolanthe.

With the threat of frost, I have upon a couple of occasions rushed out with sheets of newspaper to cover the planting of Lachenalia glaucina that we have in the open. Sheets of newspaper work because if they blow off in the night, it means we have sufficient wind to disperse the frost. We grow a wide range of lachenalia in the garden to give us flowers over many months and only a few are vulnerable to cold temperatures in our conditions – glaucina is one. It is a lovely thing and for the first time in years, we have pots of it for sale ($10). They are only just starting to put up their flower spikes so I had to resort to a photo from previous years. Lachenalias come in blues, lilac, pink, red, yellow, orange, green, white and various colour mixes – we have available for purchase the red bulbifera, white contaminata, blue glaucina, yellow reflexa hybrid and an odd, predominantly green form of aloides.

We are open for plant sales every Friday and Saturday (other days by appointment) and we have Eftpos here but we only sell to personal customers. Sorry, no mailorder. If you want to check what else we have available, check our Plant Sales