Many of us have childhood memories of sucking the nectar from fuchsia flowers or using them to create figures. Some people considered it unlucky to take it into the house. Even the Irish name for the plant -“Deora Dé”, God’s tears – was fascinating. These memories come back to us as we work this summer in the “buzzing” glasshouses of Fota Victorian Working Garden. Great, lumbering bumblebees are busy visiting the many varieties of Fuchsia. Magellanica (alba), Riccartonii, Pink Goon, Tom Thumb, Thalia, Mrs Popple, Nellie Nuttall, Sleepy and the wonderfully named, voluptuous Voodoo. Fuchsia was introduced to Ireland for hedging and a walk at this time of year on a country road in West Cork or Kerry bears this out. A constant stream of bees crossing the road from one fuchsia hedge to another is common. It’s like being on a bee highway.
Fuchsia comes from the Onagraceae family which also includes Great willow-herb (Epilobium hirsutum), another wildflower commonly seen growing in the same ditches. The plant is native mainly to South America. Fuchsia triphylla was first identified on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) around 1696/97 by the French monk and botanist, Charles Plumier. He named the new genus after the German botanist Leonhart Fuchs (1501–1566). Nowadays, almost 110 species and over 1000 cultivars of Fuchsia are recognised. The majority of these are native to South America. Others can be found in Central America, Mexico, New Zealand and Tahiti.
The most common wild Fuchsia in Ireland is the hardy F. magellanica, a deciduous shrub which, in its native environment, stretches to the southern tip of South America. But it grows happily in cool, temperate zones. It can survive the winters here in Ireland, to flower again the following July, unlike some of the more tropical, cultivated varieties.
Here are some of the fuchsia we grow in the Fota Frameyard.
In general, fuchsias like fertile soil and plenty of rain. It is very versatile as it can be grown in containers, beds or as hedging. Cuttings should be taken from new growth in late spring or early summer, from well established plants. Because they can be dwarf or large shrubs they are suitable for most gardens, patios or hanging baskets.
Alan Titschmarch (who has had a variety of fuchsia named after him), writes that “trendy gardeners have always tended to write off the hardy Fuchsia magellanica riccartonii as a bit of a “granny plant”, despite loving the long dangly earring-like flowers as small children” and “have wondered how the plant managed to survive outside all winter when its “classier” patio cousins died of cold”. He believes there is a newfound interest in these plants now, particularly the hardy varieties because “even if the tops are cut down by severe frost, the plants re-grow from the roots next spring.”
You can see many varieties of Fuchsia and other plants in the Fota Frameyard. They are flourishing in our glasshouses and flower-beds and have been propagated by our volunteers for sale in our plant store.
All photographs copyright Fotaframeyardblog.