Fuchsia Festival 2015!

A celebration of all things fuchsia. Including top tips from the experts and customer blogs.

Hardy Fuchsias – By Caroline Broome

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.

hardy fuchsia

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.

hardy fuchsiaThis 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

Giant Fuchsias

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: why my focus is on giant flowered fuchsias for 2015.

Fuchsias are the star players of summer. You don’t need to be a skilled gardener to be able to recognise these iconic garden plants. I add all manner of unusual flowering plants to my seasonal displays, hoping to impress guests and visitors, but it is always the colourful blousy fuchsia blooms that get pointed out – even by friends who have little to no interest in gardening and can’t normally tell a sweet pea from a broad bean!

With so many fuchsia varieties to grow (more than 3,600!) it wasn’t until two years ago that I got around to trying my first ever giant flowering variety and wow was I impressed – sumptuous blooms 3 to 4 times the size I was used to.  The plant even made it through its first winter outside with no protection from frost, snow or winter rain.

I was left disappointed in the second year however, the plant just failed to put on the large flowers I hoped to see return. Despite regular feeding, only the first flush of flowers impressed – subsequent blooms were little bigger than you’d see on normal varieties.  Lesson learnt – treat giant flowered fuchsias as annuals despite their tolerance to winter conditions – order new plants every year!

giant fuchsias

So this year I’ll be starting fresh with the Thompson & Morgan Fuchsia ‘Giants Collection’ – a turbo-charged mix, guaranteed to put on a stunning display of frilly bi-colour flowers.  Outside the collection I’ll also aim to grow Fuchsia ‘White King’ for a bit of pure elegance amongst all that colour.

All offer a compact trailing habit making them perfect for hanging baskets and window boxes, so I’ll be setting at least one plant per hanging basket as the star attractions of my summer container display.

Pinching out Fuchsias

Let’s start at the beginning – your fuchsia plugs will be with you in the next few weeks and you will want to grow the best plants that you can whether they are for your patio or to enter in a local show! In my blogs I will be concentrating on how to grow fuchsias to get the maximum amount of flowers for the summer!

Let’s look initially at pinching out or stopping as it is often called.

What we are aiming for when we grow fuchsias, is lots of flowers, so I guess that we could just leave the plant to grow as it wants to and so generally we would get a straggly plant. However if we take control, by pinching out our fuchsias we will get the best results!

So what is pinching out? If you want to grow a fuchsia that has a bushy growth, then you are going to need to pinch or remove the growing tip at a fairly early stage. (If you want to grow a standard – don’t panic we will cover that another time!) I let the rooted cutting or plug grow to 3 pairs of leaves about 2” tall before removing the very tip of the plant. I remove the very smallest bit at the top; however if you want to use the bit that you take off as a cutting then you may want to let the plant grow slightly taller so that you can safely take off a larger tip. Remove the tip growth with a sharp pair of scissors with fine tips. Make certain that the cut is just above the next set of leaves, as a piece of stem left behind will rot away and can cause problems.

Removing the tip stimulates the side shoots into growth, so that instead of having one main stem, the side shoots will take precedence. You have started to grow a bushy plant! Then let those side shoots grow until they have two or three pairs of leaves, and then remove their growing tips! And so on etc. etc! Having pinched out several times you will have a nice bushy plant with lots of growth. Remember that each time you remove a growing tip that you are going to at least double the numbers of main shoots. Each plant will be different in its growth –with a slow growing plant or a very short jointed one you may want to leave longer between pinches. A fast growing and rampant plant may need to be pinched out more often.

Pinching out does several things – firstly it creates a bushy plant, secondly it gives you control of the plants growth and finally, and perhaps most importantly it gives you a degree of control of when the plant will flower!   As a general rule – single flowered fuchsias (those with 4 petals) will flower after about 60 days, doubles (the larger fluffy flowers) about 80 days and triphyllas (generally with the long thin orange flowers) about 100 days. The word “about” is vital, as we can never guarantee when the plant will flower but it does give us a rough guideline!

 

Getting the best from your fuchsias – our growing secrets revealed

Fuchsias will put on a good show with minimal care throughout the season, but for the best displays it pays to learn a few simple tricks and tips.

For a fantastic fuchsia display this summer follow our secrets for success:

history of fuchsiasGrowing conditions:

  • Plant in fertile, moist but well-drained soil, with shelter from cold, drying winds. Work plenty of rotted compost or manure and slow release fertiliser into the area ahead of planting.
  • In patio containers and window boxes use a 50:50 mix of multipurpose compost and soil-based John Innes No.2 compost, mixing in some slow release fertiliser ahead of planting.
  • In hanging baskets, stick to multipurpose compost to keep the weight down, but add some Swell Gel to reduce watering needs in the height of summer.

Uses:

  • Use hardy fuchsia varieties for permanent planting – use as specimen shrubs or seasonal floral hedging.
  • Use trailing fuchsia varieties in baskets and containers at height or as seasonal ground cover.
  • Use upright fuchsia varieties in patio containers and window boxes or as gap fillers in the border.

fuchsiaGrowing on Thompson &Morgan fuchsia plug plants:

-Young fuchsias are frost-tender and need to be grown on in warm frost-free conditions before planting out at the end of May or Early June, once threat of frost has passed.

-Pot on plug plants soon after delivery into small pots or cell trays filled with multipurpose compost.

Early training:

-Pinch out the soft stem tips once plugs have put on three leaf sets – simply remove the tip and top pair of leaves with scissors snips or fingers. This will encourage bushier, compact plants and more flowers. Pinch out 2 or 3 more times once each resulting side shoot has developed three pairs of leaves – the first flowers will start to bloom 5-8 weeks after the last pinching.

Later training

  • The early training above will create a bush.
  • You could experiment and create a fan or espalier, similar to fruit tree training. This is best done with hardy varieties and done over several years to create a truly impressive flowering wall shrub.
  • It’s easy to train a standard fuchsia (long bare stem with a lollipop canopy), but it can take 18 months to achieve. We’ll be posting more in-depth instructions for this method – watch this space.

Early training:

  • Boost the flower power and habit of your fuchsia plants by pinching out the soft stem tips.

fuchsia growing tipsOn-going maintenance:

  • Feeding: Fresh compost should supply enough nutrients for 4-6 weeks of growth. Start to offer a balanced liquid feed after this time, once or twice a month through the season. Alternatively, for fuss-free feeding with impressive results, mix our long lasting Incredibloom® plant food with your compost at planting time for 7 months of controlled feeding.
  • Watering: Keep composts and soils moist at all times. In the height of summer, baskets and small containers may need watering twice daily – do this early morning and late evening to avoid scorching foliage.
  • Deadheading: Look for faded blooms every time you go past you plants – the more you remove the more your plants will bloom.

Fuchsias are edible too!
All fuchsias produce edible berries but some taste better than others! We’d love you to taste test the berries of every variety you grow this year. Let us know your favourites varieties and how you used them in the kitchen.

Try a little tenderness!

While there are some fantastic hardy fuchsias available it is usually the tender varieties that put on the most impressive floral displays. You can overwinter container plants in a frost-free location for re-using the following year – but you might not need to! We’re finding that tender varieties are getting tougher and tougher and you may find they will overwinter in your garden soil with little to no protection. Experiment this year with your favourite plants – leave them in place at the end of the season, cutting them back by a third and mulching around the base. With luck you’ll be rewarded with re-growth the following spring. If not, you can always reorder fresh plug plants in spring for guaranteed success next summer.

Hardy Fuchsia

There are few plant groups that are as diverse as the fuchsia. There is a lovely range of hardy fuchsias in the market, many with different colour foliage and form.

hardy fuchsiaFuchsia Genii is a more unusual fuchsia variety, with distinctive yellow foliage. The flowers have inky blue petals backed by magenta tepals, and these blooms are set against golden, glowing foliage. Genii is an easy to grow shrub that will grow happily in sun or part-shade giving your borders a magnificent display.

Fuchsia Hawkshead is a customer favourite and has been awarded RHS Garden Merit. Hawkshead is an upright and bushy cultivar which blooms non-stop from early summer to autumn making a lovely addition to your beds and borders.

 

hardy fuchsiaNew and exclusive to Thompson & Morgan is Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’, the best climbing fuchsia you will grow. The vigorous upright stems can extend by up to 1.5m (5ft) in a single season, making it perfect for covering walls, fences, arches and obelisks.

How to care for hardy fuchsia plants in winter

Hardy fuchsia plants are ideal for growing in sheltered borders all year round. These cultivars range from neat compact varieties such as Fuchsia ‘Tom Thumb’ that reaches just 30cm (12″) tall, up to Fuchsia magellanica which can reach a colossal height and spread of 3m (10’) in ideal conditions. Hardy fuchsias are best planted deeply in the ground to protect the crown during cold winter weather. Further winter protection can be provided by applying a deep mulch of bark chips, leaf mould or straw in late autumn each year.

Fuchsias – The Big Bloomers

At Thompson & Morgan, we have been selling plants for over 20 years now, including thousands, if not millions, of fuchsias! Our customers love a good fuchsia; from the small-flowered, table top style to the glorious trailing varieties. But, for now, we’re talking about the ‘big Daddies’ of the fuchsia world; the giant-flowered trailers!

fuchsias

They may look fancy, exotic and drenched in colour, but the giant-flowered fuchsias are actually English-bred, and guaranteed to perform in our ever-changeable English climate! As easy to grow as any other fuchsia, they’ll feel most at home in a dappled, shady corner, so are ideal for jazzing up a front door or garage that doesn’t get the sun!

fuchsias

Each bloom is filled out by an extra layer or two of petals, giving flamboyance and a bloom that swells to almost 6 inches in diameter! Some of my favourite varieties include the dark, mysterious ‘Voodoo’, the playful, brightly coloured ‘Cecile’ and marbled ‘Bicentennial’. The key to more fuchsia blooms is an early pinching of your plants. But, don’t get over-zealous with this, just 2 pinches will be enough.

The blooms can be twice the size of a standard fuchsia flower such as ‘Swingtime’, and you’re sure to love them! Bear in mind you might get a few less blooms than the usual trailing fuchsias, but this is only because each bloom is bigger and they take up more space! But, I urge you to try some for yourself, giant-flowered types aren’t ready available in the garden centres, so snap some up while you can!

My Fuchsia Experience so far – by Lucas Hatch

fuchsia festivalLast year I bought the Thompson & Morgan Fuchsia ‘Giant Collection’. It included some of the biggest fuchsia flowers I had ever seen, Bella Rosella, Bicentennial, Quasar, Seventh Heaven and voodoo. It amazed me how quickly they grew and how well they flowered.

Why I love fuchsias

I like how fuchsias look very exotic especially the ones with variegated blooms. The standard fuchsias look great and give added height to flower beds. I like fuchsias because they are not too difficult to take cuttings from, but they need good attention daily. I would recommend you buy the garden ready plants.

Lucas HatchTop tips on growing your fuchsias

You will need to use good compost like the standard multipurpose compost, with plenty of grit to improve drainage, or John Innes No.1.

When you come to potting your fuchsias up, I recommend that you add some of Thompson & Morgan’s Incredibloom®. I had great success with this product when I was preparing petunias for my show garden last year – masses of blooms!

To encourage the development of bushy side shoots and to be covered in summer flowers, it is essential to pinch out the soft growing tips of the fuchsia plant. I had read somewhere if you pinch out the tips a couple of times, it will stop the plants becoming too leggy and continue an abundance of flowers through into autumn. This really needs to be done April-June. It just takes a few minutes per plant.

If you want to grow in a greenhouse or a conservatory, make sure you don’t crowd them to allow ventilation. Make sure your greenhouse or conservatory is well ventilated in warm weather, and make sure you don’t over-water them. If they are grown in a greenhouse or conservatory, check regularly for fungal and insect attack and treat as appropriately. Remember always to dead head your fuchsias to prolong the flowering period.

In the future I am keen to try some other varieties. I will let you know how I get on.

How to grow fuchsias

There are few plant groups that are as diverse as the fuchsia. These exotic looking beauties are firm favourites for their pendant flowers in a wonderful range of colour combinations. Fuchsias may be deciduous or evergreen depending on their variety and growing conditions. They’re versatile too, growing happily in sun or semi shade. These hard working shrubs will flower virtually all summer long, filling borders, beds, window boxes, hanging baskets and patio containers – in fact, they will bring colour to almost any position that you can think of.

FuchsiaHow to grow Fuchsias

Pot up fuchsia plug plants using a good quality, well drained compost such as John Innes No.3, and grow them on in warm, frost-free conditions. Trailing fuchsia plug plants may be planted directly into baskets, window boxes and containers. These should also be grown on in warm, frost free conditions until they are well developed.

Pinch out the growing tips of each plant while they are still small to promote bushier growth and more flowers. When all risk of frost has passed, gradually acclimatise fuchsia plants to outdoor conditions over a 7 to 10 day period, before moving them (or planting them out) in their final positions. Watch our helpful video to learn how to pinch out Fuchsia stems.

Fuchsias are very versatile and can be grown in sun or semi shade in any fertile, moist well drained soil, although they will appreciate some shade during the hottest part of the day. Choose a position that offers shelter from cold, drying winds.

When growing hardy fuchsias in the ground they are best planted so that the base of the stem is 5cm (2″) below the soil surface. This will help to protect the crown of the plant during cold winter weather.

Feeding and watering fuchsias

Water fuchsias regularly to maintain moist, but not waterlogged conditions. Fuchsias that are grown in containers will need frequent watering depending on the size of the container and weather conditions. Hanging baskets should be watered at least once a day during hot summer weather. Fuchsias that are planted directly into borders will become more self sufficient once established.

Although many fuchsia plants are naturally floriferous, it is well worth feeding them every few weeks throughout the summer, especially those grown in hanging baskets and containers. Use a soluble fertiliser such as Chempak Fuchsia Feed. Regular feeding will encourage an endless supply of flowers and frequent deadheading will also prolong the flowering period.

History of fuchsias

Charles Plumier (1646-1704), a French monk & botanist, discovered and named many plants in honour of fellow botanists during his 3 plant hunting trips to the Caribbean’s and South America. Some of his most famous discoveries are Begonia, Fuchsia, Lobelia and Magnolia. In 1695, during his third voyage, while on the lookout for the Cinchona tree (quinine) on behalf of King Louis XIV, he discovered, sketched and described a new plant he found on the foothills of Hispaniola (nowadays Haiti & the Dominican Republic).

history of fuchsias

In 1703, Plumier formally published the name of his discovery as Fuchsia triphylla, flore coccineo, in honour of Leonhard Fuchs (1501-1566), a German physician and botanist Plumier held in high regard for his De Historia Stirpium (1542), the first botanical work combining very accurate description and illustrations of plants depicting flowers, fruits and seeds together on the same plant. Fuch’s De Historia Stirpium, with its illustrations and botanical glossary, is the precursor of Botanical Illustration. Plumier died soon after in 1704, he is remembered in the Genus Plumeria.

Given the German origin of the name, we should actually be pronouncing Fuchsia as “fook-sya” ([fʊksja]), but the commonly used English pronunciation remains “fyusha” ([fjuːʃə]).

From over 100 species of Fuchsias, most originate from Central and South America, but a few come from New Zealand and have the particularity of having blue pollen. This pollen was used by young Maori people to adorn their face, probably well before the official discovery of the Genus.

The plant samples and seeds Plumier collected in Hispaniola, among which were possibly Fuchsia triphylla, were lost in a shipwreck. Fortunately, the drawings and description were travelling back to Europe on another boat. So actual plants of Fuchsia did not reach the UK before 1788, when Captain Firth brought 2 species back from his South American trips, these were probably F. coccinea from Brazil and F. magellanica from Chile. Although this has been disputed by many and may even be part of the embellished story told by a Fuchsia salesman, James Lee, to sell his plants. This story was however recounted by Dickens in Household Words.

history of fuchsias

Fuchsia ‘Tom Thumb’

In the next few years many more Fuchsia species reached the UK from South America and a plant hunting and hybridising craze soon began. The first hybrid was described in 1837; in 1840 the first cultivar with white sepals was obtained: ‘Venus Victrix’. Popular varieties still with us today followed, like ‘Tom Thumb’ (1850), ‘Riccartonii’ (1852), ‘Bland’s New Striped’ (1872). By contrast plants of Plumier’s original F. triphylla didn’t reach Kew before 1882.

Many hybrids arose simply by collecting berries and planting sheer numbers of seeds, selecting and naming only the best seedlings. Fuchsias were the Victorian Era plant by excellence and favoured by the Queen herself. They were grown in the thousands, sold at Covent Garden Market and grown into pillars, pyramids, standards, bushes and baskets by discerning gardeners. The two world wars slowed their popularity and food crops were now grown instead of Fuchsias. Between the two wars Fuchsia were taken to USA where intense breeding began, especially for giant blooms. Many of the giant trailing Fuchsia were raised there.

From Plumier’s original discovery to today’s newest Giant Fuchsias, there are now over 10000 registered cultivars worldwide, and Fuchsia history is still in the making!

Charles Valin, Plant Breeder at T&M

Climbing fuchsias

Pop along to any garden centre and you’ll probably see the same few climbers; there’ll be some straggly honeysuckle, quite a few large-flowered, dull clematis, thugs like Virginia Creeper, and so on… Surely it’s about time there was a plant that’s a bit classier, a plant that’s easier to prune, a plant your garden hasn’t seen before? Step right up climbing fuchsias!

climbing fuchsias

Introducing our new bright spark, Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’, which is the best ‘climbing’ fuchsia we’ve ever seen. Before we go any further though, remember it isn’t a true climber and won’t produce sticky pads or tendrils. But, the growth is so vertical and upright that you’ll find it virtually hugs the wall, and plants will shoot up more than 5 feet in a single season.

climbing fuchsias

climbing fuchsias

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuchsia ‘Lady Boothby’ is the predecessor to ‘Pink Fizz’, and was actually introduced back in the 1930’s, but was never very well-known, and didn’t have the flower power to back up its vigorous growth habit. New ‘Pink Fizz’ is English-bred, and the plant represents the ‘second generation’ of climbing fuchsia, with flowers appearing on almost every internode on the plant. As you can see in the photos above, the Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ looks amazing when planted in one of  our Tower Pots™.

‘Pink Fizz’ isn’t just a flash in the pan though- plants will not only flower from June to September, but this hardy fuchsia variety will come back every year too, as they’re hardy down to -10C. Pruning Fuchsia ‘Pink Fizz’ is a doddle, wait until the spring and trim your plants back by a third.

So, if one of your New Year’s resolutions was to try something different in your garden, there’s no need to look any further…!

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