Collectibles from Peta Trahar's richly planted garden at Woodgreen

12 Jul 2015

Article in Our Gardens Winter

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Fabulous Fuchsia

Text and photos Peta Trahar


The brief: You require a bushy, evergreen, tall shrub to fill that sheltered corner of the garden where a little screening is required. A tad above fence height will fill the bill. It also needs to be thornless, easy to prune and shape, oh and possess a healthy growth habit. Essential, your shrub must flower all through Winter. No problems! Your perfect match is Fuchsia arborescens – the Tree Fuchsia from Mexico. You will protect it from heavy frost and cold wind won’t you?


Strangely, there is not a lot of horticultural information out there about this very beautiful plant and I suspect that it’s not commonly available. There is modern demand for compact greenery. We simply don’t have the garden space that we used to have. As a result the larger plants often slip down the growing list, forgotten and sadly, eventually gone. We can bring colours and material objects back into fashion – virtually impossible with living things. The result, rare breeds, rare plants and finally, extinction.


Tree Fuchsia flowers are both spectacular and generous in number and are extra welcome in the colder months of Winter when we yearn for colour. “Thank you,” say the honeyeaters and beneficial insects hunting for pollen. “Thank you,” echo the florists who arrange bunches of rosy magenta blooms, pleased that the Fuchsia’s flower stems too are a matching rich purplish tone. They’ll last well in a vase. Happy customers.


Fuchsia arborescensis easy to prune and shape. I’ve seen it trained as a standard. Left to its own devices it will grow into a small, multi branched tree. Mine is kept lower. I prune it in Spring after the main flower flush. The thicker the branching, the more flowers next Winter.


Being a true species, Fuchsia arborescens has been used to develop many of the modern hybrids we enjoy. The name Fuchsia commemorates Professor Leonard Fuchs, a 16th century German physician and botanical author.


But wait! New Zealand gardeners will tap me on the shoulder to remind me that their native Fuchsia excorticata is the world’s largest Fuchsia. It’s deciduous, beautiful and at 12 metres high unfortunately relished and threatened by the nuisance Australian introduction, our brush tailed possum. I’d like to add a Fuchsia excorticata to my collection because it will take over flowering after my Mexican species. Its common Maori name, ‘Kotukutuku’ is charming. Now where do I get it?


Peta Trahar MAIH MAILDM contributes regularly to “Our Gardens” Check out her website connect with her on facebook

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