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JEARRARD'S HERBAL


12th November 2017

Fuchsia 'Bronze Banks Peninsula'.
The strongest impression of the week remains the strangeness of the season. When the sun shines it is warm, when it rains it is cold and the wind blows hot and cold on a whim.
Just down the road from me there is a garden with a large ornamental meadow. After a late summer cut, snatched between rain storms, it had regrown into a tall, almost unruly sward. It was clear that it needed cutting again but it was still a surprise to see a tractor cutting hay in November, turning it a couple of times in the following week and then baling it a few days ago just as the rain started to fall. I thought it was courageous and I thought it was unavoidable. Is there such a thing as unavoidable courage? Perhaps Remembrance Sunday is the day to think about such things.
Leaves have fallen in drab brown piles. In some years a spirited wind fluffs them about the place in playful heaps. This year they had been soaked while still on the trees and fallen to the ground with a thump. I was striding down through the garden on wednesday when my leading heel hit a patch of leaves and slid away in front of me. It tests how far the legs will stretch.
Down by the greenhouse the leaves have gone from Fuchsia 'Bronze Banks Peninsula'. It reveals the clustered flowers. This has been its best year ever, and the bare twiggy branches are festooned with plump berries. I toyed with the idea of making some jam but the berries are brown, it might look a bit unappetising.


12th November 2017

Fuchsia excorticata .
There are bright things in the garden at the moment, there are even bright Fuchsia but they haven't been catching my eye. Three or four weeks ago I cut my own little meadow to ensure that the grass was short enough to enjoy the early daffodils. I wandered over it yesterday to see if there were any signs of the shoots but nothing showing yet. It has been a mild, wet autumn so I am expecting early shoots and early flowers. Fuchsia excorticata grows among the shrubs that form the back boundary. It has grown a lot since last year and the first flowers have opened on the bare branches. My clone is a sprawling, untidy thing with small brownish leaves. It is delightful for its winter flowers but when I saw the pictured clone in flower in a nursery yesterday, I had to have it.
The new plant has larger, greener leaves with more strongly silvered undersides. It is substantially shrubbier, less floppy and the flowers are greener and more elegant than my original plant, with a longer tube. The Fuchsia of New Zealand are a complicated bunch. There are perhaps three species but they vary and they hybridise so the boundaries of the species can be difficult to define. 'Bronze Banks Peninsula' is one of those cases where a wild collected plant doesn't quite fit. This clone of F. excorticata is closer to the type description and it may form a decent tree - up to 10m in New Zealand, 4m is about the largest I have seen in the UK. The new plant also has got excorticating bark unlike the old plant which barely produces enough trunk to survive peeling bark.


12th November 2017

Fuchsia procumbens 'Wirral' .
The Fuchsia of New Zealand may not be the brightest in flower, but they are unique in having some yellow colour in the flowers. F. procumbens has a clear yellow tube and hybridists have been trying to use it as a parent for decades in an attempt to produce yellow Fuchsia flowers in traditional style plants. No luck so far!
F. excorticata has been a bit more co-operative and the brownish colour of the flowers has been refined to purple to give a range of modern looking hybrids with strange purple flowers. They have been called 'aubergine' and the most striking of the new hybrid have petals so dark they are almost black.
While this has been happening, F. procumbens has been stubbornly infertile, its reluctance to hybridise even saw it shunted off by itself into a separate section of the genus (Procumbentes), a sort of 'naughty step' for the chaste.
It has confined its efforts to the production of a variegated form, 'Wirral', with greyish leaves margined with white. The white tissue can wander at times through the leaf and if a flower bud forms at the right point the green and purple colours are lost from the calyx lobes and the flower is pure yellow and white. It is very attractive, but it is an albinistic accident not a useful improvement. Anybody with an interest would do well to tramp the coastal regions of North Island looking for variability. There is some variation in clones in cultivation, but I am sure there is more to find.



12th November 2017

Fuchsia excorticata x procumbens .
All fired up in my enthusiasm for dull, brownish flowered plants, I was almost overwhelmed when I saw this hybrid for the first time. The nurseryman who had propagated it gave me a sideways glance. This man is clearly insane, any sudden moves and I am going to stand behind these Yucca where I will be safe. I could see the thought in his eyes, but I was being well behaved. Lots of reassurance and moderate smiling. Tone down the simian grin, the singing, dancing and the worst of the arm flapping.
It looks just like every other New Zealand Fuchsia with dullish flowers, dullish leaves and a bit more floppy stem than it has a practical use for. Still, if the parentage is correct it is a very rare hybrid of F. procumbens. It is an unusual hybrid between sections of the genus (sections Skinnera and Procumbentes) and following the divergence of F. procumbens from the other Pacific Island Fuchsia it may be the first time Fuchsia procumbens has had sex with anyone else for eighteen million years. Surely a little enthusiasm is warranted?