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Meet Mark Jury, magnolia breeder

If there’s a stunning deciduous magnolia in your garden with enormous cup-shaped blooms and rich colour, chances are it was bred by New Zealand plantsman, Mark Jury.

Interview: Robin Powell, Photos: Robin Powell & Abbie Jury

Meet Mark Jury, magnolia breeder

Honey tulip - coming soon

Felix Jury

What's the process of hybridising a magnolia?

Everything is sexual reproduction, and the exchange of DNA. You introduce pollen from one plant to another and hope to get the result you’re after. The idea is to get plants that grow well and easily in a garden - and there are only a few of those. You are crossing those with big-flowered types to get the size of the flowers up and the size of the plant down, in a plant that’s easy to grow.


How long before you know it’s worked?

if you're lucky you can pick in four or five years that the situation is hopeful. That's when you usually first see the flowers, though ‘Felix Jury’ flowered as a two-year old which is incredible.


'Felix Jury'


Do you take notes to help you keep track?

I wouldn't have time to hydrisise if I took notes! I note the cross and the date planted out and everything else is stored in my head.


From the hundreds of seedlings you've flowered you’ve only named and released four cultivars - ‘Black Tulip’, ‘Felix’ and ‘Burgundy Star’.How long does it take from knowing a plant is good to its commercial release?

If you're really going for it, 10 years. Our most recent is a yellow magnolia, ‘Honey Tulip’. We have launched it in Europe and the US, but it takes a long time to get plants into Australia. We work with Tesselaar and are hoping to get it to them this season, then it will go into quarantine so it will be another few years before its available to Australian gardeners. I have another three that are about to go into trials.


'Honey Tulip' coming soon

We know you for magnolias, but you also work on other plants, and many gardeners would be growing your Cordyline ‘Red Fountain’ and Daphne ‘Perfume Princess’.

Our retirement plans. Daphne is less showy than a magnolia but more economically rewarding. Not everyone can fit a magnolia in the backyard, but everyone wants a daphne by the back door - or two.


Of all the plants you’ve bred, which is the one you’re most proud of?

The magnolia ‘Felix’. It was a real step forward in red magnolias -bigger flower, richer colour, more showy, pyramidal good sturdy growth. It was what my father was aiming for and I named it after him. He was alive to see it, which I’m very pleased about.

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Author: Robin Powell