Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It's got a great Fuchsia

Fuchsia magellanica by our gate at Doorus, Co Clare

Beautiful ballerina-like flowers

The Fuchsia is a plant that used to drive me to distraction. Not because it was hard to propagate or difficult to grow, or anything horticultural like that. People just seem to find it so hard to spell.

As an editor working on horticultural publications it was one of those bogey words. However much I told my writers how it should be spelled, it would still arrive on my desk as Fuschia. Aaaargh. Just typing it that way brings me out in a cold sweat.

It got so bad I resorted to sticking a large notice on the office wall with the correct spelling in letters a foot tall.

So there were mixed feelings when I moved to this plot in Ireland and found out that many of the hedges were of the hardy fuchsia. But seeing it this time of the year, dripping with its beautiful red and purple flowers that dance in the breeze, any bad memories are instantly washed away.

The species we have is one of the hardiest, Fuchsia megallanica. It looks so at home here it’s hard to believe it’s actually a very long way from home – the clue to how far is in the name. It’s actually native to Chile – from the area near the Magellan Straits.

Trinity College Dublin lists it as an invasive alien species to Ireland. I know they’re probably technically right, but there are aliens and aliens and this one, like ET, is certainly a friendly one.

How it found its way here is somewhat disputed, but it has probably been here since the early 18th century. Charles Plumier certainly brought it back from his plant hunting expedition to South America around 1700 and was responsible for naming it Fuchsia in honour of the German botanist Leonhart Fuchs.

You see … it’s easy. It’s named after Fuchs so it’s Fuchs..ia. I can hear myself repeating this endlessly to aspiring writers and seeing the same glazed look in their eyes.

Sorry …. I must get over it!

So Fuchsia magellanica made its way to Britain along with a number of other species and it became one of the parents of many of the fuchsia hybrids we now know and love to grow. It’s reckoned there are some 8000 hybrids in the garden trade around the world – a reflection of our universal love for this wonderful plant.

But I think the original species is still a great plant in its own right and worthy of a place in any large garden.

Just remember though …. if you decide to comment, just watch that spelling. Get it wrong and I’ll be after you with my editor’s blue pencil!