Fab Fuchsias

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Fuchsia Ambassador

Autumn is definitely here: the humidity has gone from the air, the sunlight has a beautiful mellow quality, and the mornings have become a little nippy though the days are still pleasantly warm. This is my absolute favourite time of year. The new season has seen my Fuchsia plants looking better; the past summer was not an easy one for Fuchsia in Sydney, as they really struggled in January's awful heatwave. However, they have recovered somewhat with the rain and cooler weather.

I have always loved the dainty pendulous flowers of Fuchsia - we pretended they were ballerinas when we were little - but never had much luck growing them. I would gratefully receive a beautiful flowering specimen in a basket as a gift, hang it up on the verandah and look after it as best I could - but eventually it just faded away, usually after a hot spell in summer when it just seemed impossible to keep it moist enough. Fuchsia plants always seemed very vulnerable and precious, and not the sort of thing one would ever leave to the mercy of the elements by actually planting them in the garden.

Fuchsia magellanica

However, this is apparently exactly what we Sydney gardeners should do to have success with them! Whilst there are certainly prima donnas that will sulk in the garden (usually the pale-coloured, extremely frilly, double-flowered sorts which don't look at home amongst other flowers anyway), a number of Fuchsia species and cultivars will form strong and enduring shrubs in the garden, flowering from late spring into autumn, or even winter. They bring the opportunity for an abundance of elegant and colourful blooms on cascading branches, which mix effortlessly with many of the other semitropical plants which thrive in our mild climate, such as Justicia , Plectranthus and Begonia.

Fuchsia triphylla hybrid in the garden of Margaret Chedra in Eastwood

The single or semi-double sorts look most at home in a garden setting, and these are usually the ones which are most heat tolerant and therefore suitable for growing in Sydney. There are many vigorous, upright growers that will grow into bushy shrubs up to a metre tall, or which can be trained as standards; others have a more trailing habit and can be used as groundcovers or positioned to spill over walls or steps. There is a huge array of cultivars available at specialist Fuchsia nurseries and festivals, in a range of sizes, shapes and every possible colour combination in shades of white, many hues of pink, purple, lavender-blue, violet, coral, salmon-orange, crimson and scarlet.

Some heat-tolerant ones will thrive in full sun, but a position in part shade is probably the safest one to try for many garden Fuchsia, as full sun can lead to burning of flowers and foliage. A spot with morning sun and afternoon shade seems to be the ideal exposure. There seem to be some tried-and-true ones which gardeners find reliable for our Sydney climate, including 'Ambassador' (white, pink/purple), 'Chequerboard' (white, red), 'Joy Patmore' (white, cerise), 'Pixie' (cerise red, mauve), 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' (a hybrid of Fuchsia triphylla, red), 'Graf Witte' (red, purple) and Fuchsia magellanica (dainty red, purple). For detailed growing advice, follow this link to my plant directory entry on Fuchsia.

Reader Comments

  • By Alida 2085 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 18 March 2009

    Im looking forward to seeing the Shale garden - thanks for the reminder.

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Thursday, 19 March 2009

    Also love fuchsias and have a number growing, some of which you mentioned. I have most growing in full sun, and they thrive, but you need to plant older, hardier types. Also looking forward to Chriss garden, thnk you for mentioning it. Margaret

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