George says: Enter the ballerina! It's time to talk fuchsias

Today, fuchsias come in all sorts of combinations of red, white, pink, purple and even blue, but the distinctive red sepals on species such as Fuchsia magellanica – and the lack of scent – are clues that these elegant flowers are designed to be pollinated by birds. Not just any birds, but hummingbirds.
Fuchsias always remind me of ballerinas, with their long skirts, and protruding anthers that look like tiny little legs in pointe shoes. In fact, the fuchsia flower is designed to make life easy for its hummingbird partners, allowing them to hover beneath the flower while inserting their long curved beaks into the corolla.
I'm always very jealous when I see hummingbirds in American gardens, but while we may not have hummingbirds here in the UK, we can grow fuchsias. George explains how.

The versatile fuchsia can be found in every garden, either as a hardy variety, or in hanging baskets, in patio pots, or as standards or pyramids, plus the straightforward potted plant.
The range of colours is breathtaking. Salmons, oranges, reds, blues, cream, and white, plus variations of bicolours.
The best choice for hanging baskets are double varieties like 'Swingtime' with its red sepals and white ballerina skirt, supplying an abundance of bloom throughout the summer. Then you have the single types like 'La Campanella'. With its white sepals and lilac-blue skirt, this is also a constant flowering variety.

For patio tubs, upright varieties are great, such as the cream double 'Skaters Waltz' and  red and cerise 'Tennessee Waltz', which will give a glorious show of flowers.
Standard and Pyramid fuchsias can be grown from any variety but the preference is usually for those with single type flowers.

Hardy varieties are great if you want something that will survive the winter. These include 'Mrs Popple' (bright red sepals and violet petals),  'Mrs W P Woods' (pale pink), 'Hawkshead' (white) and many others. The one that you will see naturalised in hedgerows in Ireland and the West Country is Fuchsia magellanica, originally from South America.
Hardy fuchsias will lose their leaves in winter, but in early spring, cut the woody growth down to within six inches of the ground and you will find new leaves will appear. 
When the young shoots are forming, greenfly take a fancy to the lush leaves so be aware that you will need the bug gun handy, but only spray in the evening as the chemical can scorch the leaves in hot sunshine.

Another aphid to be aware of is the whitefly. They leave a sticky substance under the leaves then lay thousands of eggs; these pests can spread to all types of house plants so beware.
If you are growing fuchsias in a greenhouse you will need to apply shading during the summer to avoid scorching of the plants. You will also need to keep the floor damp to avoid red spider mite – they hate dampness but thrive in dry conditions.
Never allow a fuchsia to dry out and flag for water. This causes huge stress, then when you do apply the water it runs up the stems fast and will force the flower heads off the branches, so keep moist at all times. 

If you want to over-winter fuchsias without a greenhouse, dig up from the garden, place in pots and store in the garage or shed. Water once a month (Do Not Forget!).  You will lose all the foliage but hopefully the sap will be retained in the stalks. In the spring, prune back to a nice shaped plant, and water once a week, then shoots should appear.
Fuchsias are fast growing and need plenty of stimulant so when the plants are flowering whether in pots, tubs or in the garden, apply liquid fertilizer on a weekly basis. This will allow a continuation of flowers throughout the summer.
You will enjoy the masses of flowers which fuchsias produce and gain great pleasure in seeing them thrive in your garden.
When you think of how the old-fashioned fuchsia that grows in the verges of Devon and Cornwall has now been transformed into the modern varieties of today, you can see that hybridising has come a long way.
Enjoy your fuchsia displays.


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