The Splendid Fuchsias
If you want enchanting flowering plants for shade, rely on the fuchsias. Whether in individual pots, window boxes, or hanging baskets, lady's ear drops, as fuchsias are sometimes called, are gorgeous plants noted for their grace and splendor. There are hundreds of varieties, single and double, in rose, purple, and white shades, and in both upright and hanging types. Fuchsias are particularly popular in California, where the summers are cool and the winters sufficiently moderate; but they make handsome container plants in other climates too.
Except for the hanging types, fuchsias are by nature upright shrubby growers, fine as specimen plants for containers. Under proper conditions, some attain considerable size. The dark purple-and-red Reiter's Giant grows to five feet or more, and the single red Mephisto is even taller. Alice Hoffman, a semi-double white and pink, is a dwarf, to two feet, as is the three-foot Camellia, a double white and red.
Tree Types Tree, or standard, fuchsias are always greatly admired. These are simply the usual fuchsias trained to tree form. With patience, you can develop your own, starting with a four- to five-inch cutting kept tied to a strong four- to five-foot stake. At the desired height of two, three, or four feet, the single stalk can be pinched back and allowed to branch. In the meantime, do not remove all leaves from the stem, because they are needed to manufacture food.
Good varieties to train to tree form include the purple-and-red Muriel, the red-and-white Storm King, the double lavender-and-red Gypsy Queen, and the all-white Flying Cloud. Tree fuchsias lend themselves to the simplicity of modern architecture; the large specimens are always attractive on the terraces and patios of contemporary ranch houses. On the other hand, they are also handsome with houses and gardens of traditional design.
For Hanging Baskets
Many gardeners believe that the best way to appreciate fuchsias is in hanging baskets, because their exquisite blooms are seen at or above eye level. They are most decorative for patios, entrances, lathhouses, and on walls and tree trunks. They can be suspended in redwood slat boxes and in glazed or plastic containers. In moss-lined wire baskets, they require more water because the roots dry out more quickly.
For basket planting, you will like the double magenta-and-carmine Anna, the single red-and-white Claret Cup, and also the semi-double purple-and-red Muriel, mentioned for tree-training. Among the most brilliant varieties are the double, bright red Marinka; the nearly orange Aurora Superba; the carmine-rose and orange-red San Francisco; and the rose-purple-and-pink Amapola. It is more effective to grow but one variety in a container.
Espaliers and Pyramids
In planters or raised beds of containers, fuchsias can be trained into interesting espalier forms against a wall or fence where the space may be too narrow for other plants. Though not difficult, the espalier plant requires time and patience. First make a trellis of wood or wire. Five to seven tiers are customary. Then train your plant as it grows, pinching growth frequently to induce branching and to avoid bare stems. Varieties to espalier include the red-and-scarlet Falling Stars, the blue-and-rose Coquette, and the red-and-white Dr. John Gallwey.
Fuchsias can also be trained into pyramids in the manner of formal English ivy plants. Since the young fuchsia shoots tend to break easily, it takes patience and a steady hand to tie them properly to the form. Fully grown plants are delightful in a formal setting, and a pair for an en-tranceway are distinctive indeed.
These tender woody plants do best under cool, humid conditions. They are especially successful in coastal areas, where fog and humidity prevail, though some varieties, as the single all-red Mephisto and the red-and-white Mine. Cornelissen, will thrive in hot, dry inland regions. They are great favorites because they bloom in shade, not the heavy shade of low-branching trees, but high, open shade and that found on the north side of a building. In dense shade, plants get leggy and flower sparingly. In hot, direct sunshine, however, they dry out and the leaves burn. In hot climates, lathhouses provide ideal conditions. Windy locations should be avoided because of the delicate flowers and brittle branches.
Moisture is essential. Plants announce dryness by wilting. In containers, they usually need water every day and sometimes more often. Good drainage is important. In the bottom of the container provide sufficient rough material-broken flower pots, pebbles, or cinders-to insure free passage of water. Do not allow pots to stand in water, and in hot weather sprinkle the foliage to remove dust and increase humidity.
Fuchsias require an acid soil. The mixture must be rich in organic matter. A good combination consists of one part good garden loam, one part leafmold or peatmoss, and either one part old manure or a small amount in dehydrated form.
Containers should be large enough to allow for full development of plants during the summer growing season. A small plant needs a six-inch pot; if two or three are grown together, use a ten- or twelve-inch pot. Starting with young plants is preferable, although large specimens are satisfactory if they are healthy and vigorous. When fuchsias are wintered in containers and are not treated as annuals, you can enrich the growing medium the first year by scooping a few inches of soil from the top and replacing it with a fresh mixture.
The next year, take plants out of containers in early spring, cut back the tops and some of the roots and repot in fresh soil in the same container. Drastically cutting back branches in the spring, before growth commences, will make plants branch well.
Increasing Your Supply
When you want to increase your collection, take three-inch cuttings from the tender spring growth, dip the ends in a hormone powder and insert the lower inch of each stem in a mixture of half leafmold and half sand. Protect the cuttings from sun and either spray them lightly from time to time or cover with polyethylene plastic to prevent their drying out. When roots have formed, transfer the plants to small pots in a mixture of light loam and leafmold. Cuttings can also be taken in late summer or early fall for small plants that are easier to winter.
Voracious in their needs, fuchsias require regular feeding through the growing season. Give liquid fertilizer once a month, following directions on the package. Fish emulsion, applied monthly, will give especially good results. During the winter, store plants at 45 to 50 degrees to keep them dormant. Water sparingly, just enough to prevent wood from shriveling. Outdoors, hardy fuchsias will survive to 25 degrees, but where hardiness is questionable, it is safer to winter plants in a greenhouse, cool room, shed, or in a coldframe. During this period, cover the roots with a layer of peatmoss.
Insects likely to attack fuchsias include aphids, red spiders, white flies, thrips, mealy bugs, and leaf hoppers. Malathion, lindane, or DDT applied regularly, especially before an infestation is heavy, will keep these enemies under control.