Autumn is definitely here: the humidity has gone from the air, the sunlight has a beautiful mellow quality, and the mornings have become a little nippy though the days are still pleasantly warm. This is my absolute favourite time of year. The new season has seen my Fuchsia plants looking better; the past summer was not an easy one for Fuchsia in Sydney, as they really struggled in January's awful heatwave. However, they have recovered somewhat with the rain and cooler weather.
I have always loved the dainty pendulous flowers of Fuchsia - we pretended they were ballerinas when we were little - but never had much luck growing them. I would gratefully receive a beautiful flowering specimen in a basket as a gift, hang it up on the verandah and look after it as best I could - but eventually it just faded away, usually after a hot spell in summer when it just seemed impossible to keep it moist enough. Fuchsia plants always seemed very vulnerable and precious, and not the sort of thing one would ever leave to the mercy of the elements by actually planting them in the garden.
However, this is apparently exactly what we Sydney gardeners should do to have success with them! Whilst there are certainly prima donnas that will sulk in the garden (usually the pale-coloured, extremely frilly, double-flowered sorts which don't look at home amongst other flowers anyway), a number of Fuchsia species and cultivars will form strong and enduring shrubs in the garden, flowering from late spring into autumn, or even winter. They bring the opportunity for an abundance of elegant and colourful blooms on cascading branches, which mix effortlessly with many of the other semitropical plants which thrive in our mild climate, such as Justicia , Plectranthus and Begonia.
The single or semi-double sorts look most at home in a garden setting, and these are usually the ones which are most heat tolerant and therefore suitable for growing in Sydney. There are many vigorous, upright growers that will grow into bushy shrubs up to a metre tall, or which can be trained as standards; others have a more trailing habit and can be used as groundcovers or positioned to spill over walls or steps. There is a huge array of cultivars available at specialist Fuchsia nurseries and festivals, in a range of sizes, shapes and every possible colour combination in shades of white, many hues of pink, purple, lavender-blue, violet, coral, salmon-orange, crimson and scarlet.
Some heat-tolerant ones will thrive in full sun, but a position in part shade is probably the safest one to try for many garden Fuchsia, as full sun can lead to burning of flowers and foliage. A spot with morning sun and afternoon shade seems to be the ideal exposure. There seem to be some tried-and-true ones which gardeners find reliable for our Sydney climate, including 'Ambassador' (white, pink/purple), 'Chequerboard' (white, red), 'Joy Patmore' (white, cerise), 'Pixie' (cerise red, mauve), 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' (a hybrid of Fuchsia triphylla, red), 'Graf Witte' (red, purple) and Fuchsia magellanica (dainty red, purple). For detailed growing advice, follow this link to my plant directory entry on Fuchsia.
Creative pest control
25 Oct 20
There are lots of ways to outwit garden pests!
18 Oct 20
Although my garden is semi-tropical in nature now, I still have some vestiges from my cottage garden days!
11 Oct 20
Consider training a shrub into a small tree.
04 Oct 20
October is iris time in Sydney gardens: the best are the tall bearded irises and Louisiana irises.
One crowded hour
27 Sep 20
Much can be achieved in regular short stints in the garden.