Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Fuchsia Survey

 A Fuchsia Survey by W P Wood
Cover Illustration by Elizabeth Sorrell
Published by Williams Norgate 1950
You have to feel sorry for Mr Wood. He wrote this book as a history of Fuchsia growing, covering the time of discovery of the various species in South America and other parts of the world, to the development of the breeding programmes in the 19th Century and release of hundreds of new cultivars over the years from 1830 to the time of his writing. The War years dealt a blow to his passion for them and even by 1948 he was mourning their non appearance at the Covent Garden Market in London, as the production of fruit and vegetables instead of flowers was still at a premium. I think he wistfully longed to pack up and move to San Francisco, such is his praise for that city and its ideal Fuchsia growing climate, as Californian botanist Professor Phillip Munz (1892-1974) had published his great monograph, A Revision of the Genus Fuchsia in 1943 and America was the new centre for their research and development. 
Though there is no mention of Fuchsia growing in Australia in this book, they have always been a part of the garden scene here since the time of first settlement.
British grower Thomas Thorne, he, a descendant of the famous Lye family of Fuchsia hybridists,  gave a rundown of all the Australian bred varieties in his book Fuchsias for all Purposes in 1964. Against all the Australian entries however there are the words 'date and origin unknown'. Were we suffering from some sort of horticultural cringe? most likely. Some are still available today such as 'Canary Bird' and 'Crimson Bedder' but it would be nice to know who introduced them to horticulture. At the time there was no Australian Fuchsia Society, as that did not come till 1970 after a "call to arms" by A G Puttock (he was an ex Army officer after all) in his book on The Australian House and Garden Book of Fuchsias. Many garden books tell us much about social history and his suggestion of enclosing a verandah to make a sun room for growing Fuchsias was very much the way some older hoses were modernized at the time. Deborah Law's more recent book Growing Fuchsias published by Kangaroo Press (editions 1987 and 1990) is one of the best reference books we have on the local scene.
It is sad to report that the Australian Fuchsia Society, which had been based in Adelaide has been disbanded and the Fuchsia Club of New South Wales is in limbo. Where to now for the promotion of these hardy and delightful plants?

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