Look to the fuchsia for the most spectacular flowers of summer. With arching stems from which the complex, multi-skirted flowers dangle in clusters like prize jewels, it’s hardly surprising that fuchsias are the champions of hanging baskets, window boxes and containers.
Garden snobs call them vulgar, and bypass them for subtler blooms, but they are missing out on so much. The broad range of colours and the forms that are available today are nothing short of sensational, and what is more, they keep on producing a constant stream of flowers from June to the frosts. You simply dose them with tomato feed weekly and snip off the faded blooms. No regrets — there are always more to take their place. Cuttings, which you can take in early autumn or spring, are easy, and will sometimes even root in water.
One fuchsia that is currently flowering its socks off on my terrace is Dancing Flame, which has an outer skirt of four pointed petals in a gorgeous orange-pink over full underskirts flamed with cerise and an inner cerise sheath that encircles long, slim, pink stamens. It is, in short, a cracker.
Stars of the garden catwalk
There are hundreds of fuchsia bedding choices, some trailing, others with a more upright growth habit, that are all stars of the horticultural catwalk. The more familiar combo of shocking pink with violet might be substituted for a soft rose pink, as in the full and ruffled Claudia, which uncannily resembles a ballet tutu; luscious shades of peach and apricot, as in two-tone Apricot Ice, or the ravishing combination of white, raspberry and lavender-mauve, as in La Campanella, which holds the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
You can take your pick of the best, and take them home with you, by visiting three award-winning fuchsia nurseries at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show next week — Lockyer Fuchsias, Potash Nursery and Roualeyn Fuchsias.
Producing such showy flowers, the container fuchsia can stand alone, needing no back-up, but you could add a few plants of, say, Felicia, with small lavender daisies beneath the more flamboyant flowers that hang above them on long stalks which, as the flowers fade, become as thin as silk thread.
So pretty, but so tough
If your tastes run to something subtler, consider Fuchsia magellanica, one of the finest flowering shrubs for any kind of garden. It makes tough laneside hedging all over the West Country and this hardy fuchsia, despite its South American roots, will grow equally well as an easy-care and hugely decorative border plant in your garden. Each dangling cerise-red and violet flower is long, slender and sculptural, more Armani-chic than the Versace-type pizzazz of its bedding counterpart.
Fuchsia magellanica var molinae is even more beautiful, with flowers that are shades of palest lilac-pink. If you need a shrub that will light up a dull, shady border, this is the one, and it’s a keeper. All you need do for a profusion of flowers every year, and to prevent it from getting ungainly, is to cut Fuchsia magellanica right back to its woody framework in February.
No complex pruning strokes required to keep this prettiest of shrubs blooming year after year.