Sandy's Garden ... The Sad Demise of Weatherproof Fuchsia

The second Sunday in September would normally have been the day appointed by the Central Scotland Fuchsia Society for its annual show.

By Sandy Simpson
Monday, 14th September 2020, 2:13 pm

Ailsa and I would normally have been attendees to enjoy the sight of as fine a display of first-rate fuchsias as can be seen anywhere in central Scotland and to meet and greet some of the fuchsia fanciers whose plants grace the show benches.

But this is not a normal year, as we are all only too well aware; and, instead of enjoying an experience to kindle fresh memories, my mind harped back to a show some years ago when Ailsa, seeking some information at the sales stand, enquired of the enthusiast in charge if this particular variety, a potted example of which she was holding in her hand, was, “oh, em, eh, weather-proof.”

The word she was searching for was ‘hardy’, meaning that it could be expected to survive a standard Scottish winter in the garden and did not have to be overwintered under cover. I still remember the look of disbelief which spread across the fuchsia aficionado’s face!

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Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson

My memory recalled that incident recently, when I had occasion to dig out an ancient bush from the garden. We were needing replacement panelling fitted below two windows, where the original cedar wood horizontal boarding has begun to succumb to more than fifty years of exposure to the Scottish climate; and to allow the joiner access to the work-sites, some vegetation clearance work was needed.

One of the shrubs to be cleared was an elderly ‘weather-proof’ fuchsia, which we think we probably planted when we moved into the house some fifty-or-so years ago.

This old friend has been distinctly hardy, having survived summers of record heat and winters of near-record cold and thriving on this widely-varying climatic diet, flowering annually with admirable loyalty. But it had to go for, in the last analysis, essential maintenance work on the house takes priority: but, despite its age and its deteriorating condition, it put up a pretty good fight to resist removal, gripping the ground tight to the end!

Well, the success of this particular ‘weather-proof’ fuchsia … variety long forgotten if it was ever known … has encouraged us to think of replacing it with a couple of rather smaller fuchsia bushes; and, by a happy coincidence, we actually have two contenders for the site growing in pots right now. Both are well-established favourite varieties for we are interested in longevity and reliability rather than novelty or curiosity value.

One is 'Dollar Prinzessin' to use what seems to be its original varietal name, although it is usually given the English name of 'Dollar Princess’; and the other is 'Snowcap,’ also known as 'Wendy’.

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) says that, “fuchsias can be deciduous or evergreen shrubs or trees, rarely perennials, with opposite or whorled leaves and usually pendent flowers with conspicuous tubular calyx, 4 spreading sepals and 4 erect petals.”

As a child, I compared the flowers to miniature, kilted redcoat soldiers, albeit they had far too many spindly legs. The RHS has this to say of Dollar Princess’: “'Dollar Prinzessin' is a bushy, upright deciduous small shrub. Flowers double, small, with short tube and broad, recurving sepals cerise-crimson; petals purple, veined red at base”; and of ‘Snowcap’: “‘Snowcap' is a vigorous upright medium-sized deciduous shrub with small, dark foliage.

Flowers semi-double, with tube and spreading sepals scarlet; petals white, with red veins at base.” Both are described as being hardy through most of the UK (-10°C to -5°C), which should suffice for my garden, where their potential site is well-protected from chill north-easterly winds and close enough to the house to deny the worst of the frost access to them.

I’m fairly sure they will be hardy enough to thrive in our garden: but will they be as long-lived as their predecessor?