By Steve Smith
If you are looking for a perennial that will bloom from June until frost, will tolerate full sun or part shade, comes back every spring (unless Mother Nature is really nasty) and makes a wonderful companion to many other plants, then what you need is a hardy fuchsia.
They are hard to beat for nonstop blooms all summer long.
My first encounter with hardy fuchsias was a variety called Fuchsia magellanica ‘Riccartonii’. It has narrow, pendent red and purple dangling flowers held against a background of dark green foliage. Growing in full sun to an amazing 5-feet tall in one season, it packs quite a punch in the garden. When I purchased the nursery in 1989 the previous owners were active in the Northwest Fuchsia Society and propagated over 350 varieties, most of which were destined to be grown in hanging baskets. Over the last 30 years, hardy fuchsias have gained in popularity; we probably sell more hardy varieties than the hanging basket varieties. Here are several available in most garden centers this time of year: •Delta’s Groom — This variety has single blooms with curved purple-red sepals (that’s the outside set of petals) and dark purple corollas (this is the inside set of petals). This small, upright form is perfect for smaller gardens, reaching only 18 inches tall and wide.
•Army Nurse — The sepals are red and the corolla is bluish-purple. The plant reaches 36 inches by 36 inches
•Sharkie — Red sepals and violet corollas on an upright plant that will grow up to 3-feet tall.
•Campo Thilco — This is a hybrid that displays vigor and increased frost tolerance. The flowers are dainty and have red sepals and violet corollas. The plant is upright and can reach 6-feet tall in one summer.
•Little Giant — Similar to ‘Riccartonii’ but more compact, with the same red on the outside, rich violet on the inside flowers.
•Sunshine — It has light pink sepals that are green tipped and the corolla is slightly darker pink. It grows 3 feet by 3 feet.
•President — This variety bears masses of flowers with pink sepals and a single purple to reddish-purple corolla. •Golden Gate — Its red sepals and purple corolla are a stunning contrast to the golden foliage and of course even without the blooms, the foliage will dress up any shady spot in the garden.
All fuchsias are hummingbird magnets and will also attract other pollinators like bees. I have been told that if you leave too many seeds on the plant it will stop blooming. Winter protection involves not pruning too severelyuntil spring when you will see signs of new growth. Mulching in the fall is good practice. Sometimes you will lose a few plants over winter, but once established, hardy fuchsias should return every spring more robust than ever. Fuchsias will be more sturdy and stocky in the sun, just make sure you amend your soil and water regularly. It is always good to have some stakes ready to give them a little extra support should they need it halfway through the growing season.
I don’t have one hardy fuchsia in my garden, but I think that is about to change. After looking over the choices, I have spotted several that will be finding a home shortly.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at email@example.com