I think hardy fuchsias are the unsung heroes of the shady garden. I have had the same fuchsia Magellanica Alba shrub for nearly twenty years. It came with us when we moved to our present house 17 years ago and when it got too big for its space 2 years ago we moved it to a larger site. Still it thrives and gives us a profusion of delicate pinky cream tear-drop flowers on its 4ft high frame every summer.
Mind you, moving it was no mean feat! We waited until end March (the worst frosts are pretty much over by then in London) and with fingers firmly crossed, cut all its stems, which were up to ½” thick, back to 6” stumps. The root ball was 18” wide and it took both of us to shift it 10ft to its new home. David had to use a pick axe to dig it up in the first place and then again to dig its new hole, our soil being solid clay by 8” down. But within 1 month, small green shoots were appearing around the base and off it went!
I can’t think of many plants that provide so much interest for up to 6 months of the year, in such inhospitable often dry shady conditions, that require so little attention in return. All I do is cut it back to about 20cm from ground level in late March and apply some specialised T&M granular fuchsia fertiliser and manure mulch for luck, then water it thoroughly about once a week or ten days throughout the growing season. If it gets out of hand I just trim it back to fit its space; it flowers most of the way down its stems so this does not affect its overall performance. I have partnered it up with abelia grandiflora Edward Goucher, which mirrors it in size and hue.
This autumn I added fuchsia Microphylla, by contrast a miniature semi-hardy bush. About 18” high and 24” wide it’s still flowering on today’s date December 18th, in complete shade, its tiny magenta flowers twinkling away under the cool white and green foliage of pittosporum Irene Patterson. I’m hoping that the shelter of surrounding evergreens and trellis in well drained & mulched soil will be enough to keep it insulated, but that depends on what this winter brings. Watch this space!
Some of the large flowered fuchsias, primarily designed for patio baskets and tubs, proved to be hardy here on our London patio over last year’s mild winter, so I am leaving others in situe again as an experiment.
By Caroline Broome
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