Floral ballerinas put on a show

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Cape Town -The beautiful colour combinations of dainty fuchsia flowers are a delight of the summer garden.

Known as the “floral ballerinas” with their soft, silky petal skirts, fuchsias are easy to grow, provided they are positioned correctly and properly cared for.

The Western Cape Fuchsia Society’s annual show will be held at Kirstenbosch on Saturday and Sunday (December 12 and 13). The show provides patrons with an opportunity to see different fuchsia cultivars and colours in full bloom and a chance to purchase plants at reasonable prices.

The show is a competitive one where fuchsias may be exhibited in 36 different classes. Anyone can compete and there are classes for novices, beginners and those who attend the society’s workshops. The best specimen from the various categories wins Best on Show.

 

For the love of fuchsias

It is easy to fall in love with these delightful garden “dancers” and that’s exactly what happened to Jane Pegrum of Will’s Fuchsia Nursery.

When both her parents were diagnosed with cancer just a week apart, Jane took a leap of faith, left her corporate job and started a fuchsia nursery with her father. This was the realisation of a long-time dream and part of a family tradition with fuchsias, started by her grandfather.

William Pegrum’s last few months were spent helping Jane with the plants from his wheelchair on the patio. “When my dad could no longer help, I would take a huge basket of fuchsias to his bedside and it would instantly bring a smile to his face,” she recalls.

Jane worked hard to get the nursery off the ground. “We started with about eight different varieties and today, we have the largest collection in the Western Cape, with over 400,” she says.

Jane attributes her success to her parents as well as the help and guidance she has received from fuchsia expert, Joy Kessler.

 

5 tips for growing your own fuchsias

“Fuchsias have a long flowering season,” says Pegrum. “Some cultivars bloom from late September right through to the late autumn. They are truly special and a worthwhile addition in any garden.”

1 Soil preparation

Fuchsias need good drainage and while they love water, they don’t like wet feet, so if you are planting directly into a garden bed, prepare it very well. Dig in one part compost (don’t use mushroom compost), a half part kraal manure and a little fertiliser. For containers and hanging baskets, include one part potting soil with the compost, kraal manure and fertiliser.

2 Plant selection and positioning

Fuchsias love shade but also do well in semi-shade with some morning sun. They must be protected from the harsh afternoon rays. Don’t crowd your fuchsias, they enjoy good air flow and plenty of light. If you have a very windy garden, chose singles rather than doubles.

With thousands of different cultivars available in an array of colour combinations, fuchsia growers are spoilt for choice. For good success also choose the fuchsia cultivar to suit your planting purpose. For standards in containers, consider singles: “Dancing Bloom”, “Anita”, “Mission Bells”, “Breevis Minimus”, “Dollar Princess” or “London In Bloom”.

While fuchsias make excellent container candidates, these varieties do very well in garden beds in dappled shade: “Carla Johnson”, “Abbe Farges”, “Annabel”, “Beacon Rosa”, and F. Magellanica.

Consider these cultivars for an area with morning sun: “Helena G”, “Checkerboard”, “Beacon”, “Phyllis” and “Billy Green” (Triphylla).

3 Water requirements

Water your plants early in the morning. Water a little every day, rather than too much at once. If your fuchsias look wilted in the late afternoon, mist the leaves, then wait an hour or two and give a half a cup of water. Never overwater.

4 Feeding and care requirements

During the flowering season, feed fuchsias with a quality fertiliser high in potassium. Follow the manufacturer’s advice on how much and how often to feed your selected product. Regularly check your plants for pests and disease. I

5 Pruning fuchsias

The correct time to prune your fuchsias is late May when the weather cools. You can safely remove one third of the plant and all the leaves. Also remove dead branches, but leave any new shoots. Show details

* learn more, visit the Western Cape Fuchsia Society’s annual show. On Saturday, December 12 (midday- 5pm) or Sunday, December 13 (9am-4pm). Contact Sheila Bradnick on 072 424 7988 or 021 683 9698 for more information.

Kay Montgomery, Weekend Argus

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