The Bristol Magazine July 2018

Page 90

Gardening.qxp_Layout 2 15/06/2018 16:32 Page 1

FABULOUS FUSCHIAS Elly West firmly believes there’s a place for this divisive bloom in contemporary border schemes


sually associated with exuberant summer bedding schemes and hanging baskets, fuchsias can be slightly Marmite in their appeal. Big, blowsy and bright has a place in many, but not all, gardens. Modern breeders and showers have worked hard to create bigger and showier flowers, which perhaps hasn’t helped. Although they are not necessarily the most cutting-edge choice in terms of fashion, I think they are long overdue a revival. Go back to some of the original species varieties and you’re more likely to find a hardy plant that can create backbone and structure in a modern border, along with attractive flowers for months on end, and what’s not to like about that? Case is proven by the fact they continue to sell well year after year in garden centres, so there must be good reason for their persistent popularity. Like dahlias and even gladioli, which also fell out of favour but are now grown in the smartest gardens again, I firmly believe there’s a place for fuchsias in contemporary border schemes. If something has once been popular – the Victorians loved them – there’s usually a good reason why (in gardening terms anyway; there was no excuse for the mullet haircut). Plants and gardens are subject to fashion just like anything to do with our home, and we can often date gardens by looking at the choice of hard landscaping materials or planting styles. Crazy paving was everywhere in the 1960s and ’70s, along with conifers and heathers, the latter of which are being seen again in increasing numbers at RHS Chelsea Flower Show and elsewhere. Fashion rules are made to be broken in my view, and I’ve always been an advocate of growing plants because you like them, rather than because someone has decided they are in vogue. So if fuchsias are not strictly on-trend right now, they may well be about to enjoy a resurgence in popularity; then you’ll be ahead of the game. 90 THE BRISTOL MAGAZINE


JULY 2018


No 169

Despite the somewhat kitsch reputation, there are plenty of people who remain faithful to these classic flowers. The British Fuchsia Society was formed in 1938 and is still going strong. Fuchsia shows are held up and down the country year after year, and there are several Facebook pages dedicated to fuchsia enthusiasts. The main thing that these blooms have in their favour is sheer flower power. They keep going right through the summer and up until the first frosts, providing much-needed colour into November and even December in mild areas. And although often associated with flouncy hanging baskets, with ballerina-skirt petals in vivid shades of crimson and purple, there are also plenty more varieties to choose from – some exuberant, others more sophisticated and calming in deep shades of burgundy, or palest pink and white. They are also easy to grow and propagate. And who hasn’t enjoyed popping open the distinctive buds (or ‘dancing ladies’) when they were young, or not so young? The beautiful cascades of colour are well suited to containers and baskets; they can be trained as standards (with large mops of flowers on clear stems), used as hedging, or slotted into the border. There really is a fuchsia to suit every situation, from low-growing ground-cover types to larger shrubby plants several metres high. A drive through Cornwall in summer pays testament to this, where the crimson and mauve flowers of fuchsia magellanica are a common sight in hedgerows. Hardy fuchsias – the varieties that will survive our British winters outdoors – mostly originate from mountainous South America, with a few species from New Zealand, which gives them their exotic look, but also their resilience. They appreciate sunshine and are happy in most soil types, particularly if it’s fairly free draining, as they don’t like cold, soggy winter roots. Those in the border will appreciate a

Above: If you love big, blowsy, bright blooms, grow them! Elly has always been an advoate of choosing flowers because you like them, rather than because someone has decided they are in vogue