Hardy Fuchsia Garden
To demonstrate hardy fuchsias that do well in this area.
This full sun to partial-shade garden requires moderate to heavy watering. The soil has been modified by rototilling sandy loam topsoil and leaf mulch into the existing silty marine clay (Saanichton).
The formal geometric style of this garden gives pattern and structure to the fuchsia plants, which are beautiful when flowering but show little form or textural differences. The use of pyramidal yews (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’) as focal plants and dwarf boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’) as an edging to the beds reinforces the shape of the garden in winter and helps screen the compost area.
Four Japanese snowdrop trees (Styrax japonicus) create the partial shade required by many hardy fuchsia cultivars, and add early season beauty to the picture.
When most people think of fuchsias, they think of the trailing plants used in the hanging baskets that must be brought inside to over winter (or are discarded after they bloom). These plants are, in fact, tender fuchsias and the HCP’s collection is displayed in the Fuchsia Arbour. However, this garden displays a wide variety of hardy fuchsias with a few of the larger hardy varieties located in other HCP garden areas.
The distinction between hardy and tender fuchsias is not a matter of botanical classification. It is simply a matter of their ability to survive when left out over winter and depends, therefore, on geographic location and the severity of individual winters.
Fuchsias are shrubs of the genus Fuchsia in the family Onagraceae. Hundreds of named varieties come from about a half dozen species and dozens of hybrids. Most hardy varieties have a bit of Fuchsia magellanica, a South American species, somewhere in the family line. Hardy fuchsias bloom from June through October with a peak in August. Our fuchsia garden includes about 50 varieties of hardy fuchsias. We believe that this is the largest collection of hardy fuchsias in British Columbia, and it may be the largest in Canada..
The classic ‘fuchsia’ red and purple flowers cover a range of blossom types – from the tiny, thin Fuchsia magellanica ‘Gracilis’ to the exceptionally large double flowers of ‘Dr. Otto.’ Other colors include the white ‘Hawkshead,’ the coral pink ‘Garden News,’ and the red and white ‘Santa Claus.’
The range of plant size can be illustrated with ‘Riccartonii,’ a tall shrub; ‘Gracilis,’ is both tall and gracefully pendulous; and ‘Pumila,’ which is small enough for a rock garden. For leaf color try ‘Aurea,’ with its spectacular golden foliage, or ‘Gracilis Tricolor,’ with its cream green foliage trimmed in pink.
Hardy fuchsias will perform well with simple, basic maintenance. Unlike their hothouse cousins, the tender fuchsias, they are not prone to disease and pests. They should be heavily mulched, and need frequent watering and periodic fertilization during their growth period. They bloom on new wood, so small varieties can be cut down to stubs from 5 to 15 cm tall and larger varieties are lightly pruned just as buds start to appear in the spring.
The history of hardy fuchsias at the HCP is primarily an account of Joyce Parker’s activities (with periodic support form the Geranium and Fuchsia Society of which she is a prominent member). Joyce tracked the activities of regional fuchsia growers over many years and slowly build a fine collection at the HCP.
Because the site of the original collection was not entirely satisfactory, the fuchsias were lifted in 1997 and stored for a few years while a new location and garden design were prepared.
The garden design, a collaborative effort between Joyce and the Director of education, Suzanne Wilkinson, was installed by the students of the 2001 Landscape Horticulture Program under the supervision of head gardener Andrea Stempski, and Joyce.
At a critical point in the development of the new fuchsia garden, Margaret Mair provided substantial funds for installation. Upkeep of the garden is the responsibility of the HCP staff, who, in consultation with Joyce Parker, guide both students and volunteers in learning about and maintaining these fuchsias.
Hardy fuchsias are relatively easy to grow from fall cuttings using standard bottom heat propagation techniques. For reasons we do not understand, hardy fuchsias have not captured the attention of gardeners to the point where commercial growers have developed mass production techniques. Therefore HCP’s income from fuchsia plants we grow and sell is more than enough to maintain the garden.