In Praise Of Fuchsias

Travel writer Pat Richardson shares the pleasure of her own little corner of heaven to come home to

Fuchsia - Image: Jon Sullivan

With their vibrant colours and delicate form, these fabulously flamboyant flowers fascinate me. So, too, does the contrast between their bashful habit and their bold impact. That said, not all are as vivid as popular scarlet-and-violet Mrs Popple, some are pale and softly shaded like pearls.

In my garden, I try to use these exotic plants like the dazzling jewels they resemble. The most vibrant are placed – with no competition – as bright gems against a green backdrop. To enrich a window box or planter, I add a trailing fuchsia for a cascade of colour echoing the other flowers. And I’ll use a pearl-pale one – such as Hawkshead – to lighten a hidden corner or darker area.

With border, bushy, trailing and now also climbing varieties available, there’s really no end of ways to use them. (There are bedding fuchsias as well, but I’d rather invest my garden budget in something I’ll see again next season.)

The blooms come in several shapes, too – albeit based on the same general template: four long sepals forming the calyx, with four shorter petals hanging below like a bell, and long slender stamens extending beyond it. It’s the different shapes and colour combinations which make them so intriguing. The sepals, or ‘hat’, can be swept right back, or curled up like a Turk’s cap, or held straight out, or, as with Thalia, can form a long, slim tube that hides the petals, or ‘petticoat’ – which can be semi-double, like Lady Thumb, or fully double, like Alice Hoffman and Swingtime.

Hats and petticoats may match, and may not. Stamens usually match the hat. Sometimes, as with Pink Galore, all three match. I find a new favourite every year; this year I am ordering (for next year) Delta’s Sara. Her hat is white and swept far back, her stamens are pink and white, her petticoat is a vibrant violet blue. Better still, she’s hardy – but, just to be sure, I’ll place her out of the wind, and if it turns very cold, I’ll string-tie a layer of bubble-wrap around the pot. In Spring, as with all my fuchsias, I’ll count six pairs of leaves up each branch from the main stem, then pinch out to encourage growth.

One last tip: if you struggle with the spelling – it’s fuchsia, not fuschia – just remember that they were named after a 16th-Century Bavarian botanist called Leonhart Fuchs.

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and, a website showcasing properties with a past.