polo down young dro Fuchsia favourite deserves reviving
The fuchsia was a plant of my childhood, my adolescence and my early family life when most gardens had a hanging basket or a hardy fuchsia that lit up late summer and autumn.
Sadly, the fuchsia seems to have fallen out of fashion, pushed out perhaps by the fragrant surfinia. It deserves a revival for as the days and nights balance themselves out, the fuchsia excels and goes on late.
The fuchsia’s heyday occurred 150 years ago and some of the varieties we still grow today are 100 years old or more. Their frilly skirts seemed to suit the Victorian era and, being easy to propagate from cuttings, most large gardens used them widely.
Perhaps the flowers were too crinoline like for modern tastes, but there are elegant varieties too. Some are hardy enough for the border and a great favourite of mine is ‘Mrs Popple’ a single red purple. ‘Margaret’, another good hardy, has carmine and purple flowers. When I lived in Northamptonshire I endured a series of terrible winters during the 1980s, building up a large collection of thermal underwear, but my hardy fuchsias came through (minus the Damart) with a mulch. I was impressed.
Named fuchsias are bred from native species and there are roughly 100, mostly found from Mexico south to Chile, with a few in the West Indies,
Tahiti and New Zealand. The first to be named, F. triphylla, was discovered on the West Indian island of San Domingo in the late 17th century by Father Charles Plumier (1646 1704). He named it after Leonard Fuchs (1501 1566), a German doctor and academic. Knowing this helps with the tricky spelling, I find. Although F. triphylla was recorded then, this dark leaved species was not introduced for another 180 years. There are some fine forms with clusters slender of downward facing trumpets.
The orange red ‘Thalia’ (1890) is probably the best known and it’s said to be close to the species. ‘Thalia’ will flower all year long, given gentle heat. Many of our earliest named hybrids are bred from F. magallenica, a hardy Chilean species with smaller flowers named after the Straits of Magellan where it was first seen, and F. coccinea a less hardy Brazilian species. These two threw up doubles, semi doubles and single flowers by the mid 19th century and also produced variegated foliage and golden foliage. Most offspring are tender and cut back by the first frosts so it’s best to bring your fuchsias in before cold weather sets in. Overwinter them in a frost proof greenhouse, with a little heat of possible, and water them a little. If you’re fully heated they will flower on. Or take cuttings in summer.
Frosts occur later than they used to these days. Once the first always came in September, snaffling your runner beans in mid flow. Now it’s often late October before frost arrives and that fact alone is a good reason to grow fuchsias once again. They deliver late on and look spectacular in the clear light of autumn, preferring cooler days. It’s no accident that lots of fuchsia specialists can be found in Devon and Wales where winters are warmer and summers cooler conditions these lovelies enjoy. ‘Pink Fizz’ is a tall ‘climbing’ fuchsia said to have more flower than ‘Lady Boothby’. Both need supporting.