Ric's Previous Pieces

January 2014

Me and My Big Mouth!

I think it is brilliant that our Society is now in its twenty-fifth year and celebrating its silver anniversary, and we should make the most of it and make our show in August the best ever.

For those who were at the December meeting and still awake, you will remember that I set the challenge to everyone to enter a few more plants and a few more classes, particularly the classes where we were short on entries last year.  Although it is seven months away, now is the time to think about what classes to enter and which plants to buy, grow on and exhibit.

Work has meant that for me Fuchsias have had short shrift over the last couple of years, during which I have supported the show on the weekends but not entered any classes.  It has been very frustrating as there is nothing better than having entries in our show to really feel part of it, and conversely once you have entered shows, it feels very strange when you are at a show without any entries in it (a bit like an "out of show" experience!).

So with a little bit of forethought (planned spontaneity works for me!), I decided I ought to avoid hypocrisy and put my efforts where my mouth was, and so at the December meeting I made the commitment to put in at least 25 entries in this year's 25th show.

The weeks following the meeting have been spent garnering together and preparing the plants shown in the photograph that will help me keep that commitment, and as I can never grow Fuchsias in small pots classes with ASP (any size pot) have an allure for me (the biggest pot in the foreground is 15" with a seedling of F. boliviana f. alba coming on nicely, since I dug it up in the tunnel and popped it in a pot!). I have to admit the mild weather so far is proving to be a boon as my plants are at the stage of growth that they might normally be in February or even March.

I am using our patent "show checklist" and "show countdown calendar" to help me plan for the show.  Copies can be found on new 2014 Show page on this website.

December 2013

Fuchsia Gall Mite - The Video

I have received this link from Peter Holloway to a fascinating micro video of gall mite (Aculops fuchsiae) feeding on a Fuchsia leaf, shot by Doug Clark from San Francisco, from which can be found on YouTube at:


Threat from EU Legislation

I was very pleased to get a response from Julie Girling, our local MEP, who clearly aware the widespread concerns from the UK about some upcoming EU legislation that could severely limit the variety of Fuchsias and other plants in the years to come (see November Ric's Bits below).

I have just one more question, and that is just how has Gibraltar come to be part of the South West of England? 

November 2013

Threat from EU Legislation

This worrying article from the Gardening Times .com was highlighted on Twitter this week, and I think everyone that enjoys the fantastic variety of plants we have in our gardens and not least the 12,000 Fuchsias there are available, should be lobbying their MEPs. If the EU have their way that 12,000 different vaieties could quickly become 120 and there will be no Fuchsia nurseries and very few nurseries at all, and our gardens might all start to look the same.

The Horticultural Trades Association have summarised the issues and flaws with the EU proposal in the following document submitted to our representative.

HTA Letter of Objection

October 2013

Brussels in the Spring

I was pleased to learn this week that my friends at the Reading and District Fuchsia Society have confirmed their trip to Belgium in the Spring, to which I'm really looking forward.   We'll hop on a coach at Reading on Friday 7th and head over to the continent on a ferry, spending the Saturday at Belgium's spectacular National Botanical Garden in Brussels and completing a floriferous weekend with a trip to Katrien Michiel's Nursery on Sunday 9th.   Katrien's nursery, which she took over from her father Marcel, boasts no less than 3,000 different fuchsia varieties as well as pelargoniums, streptocarpus and many other plants for sale, so I guess I will be spending many winter hours planning my shopping. That area of Belgium has an additional nostalgia for me because I spent some years not many miles away in Herentals as a young child, of which I have some super memories.

There are still some places available so if you might be interested click here for some more details:

RDFS Trip to Belgium March 2014.pdf

July 2013

Gromit Unleashed

While catching up with friends in Bristol and the odd beer or two, I have found myself being drawn into the pastime of "gromiting", that is spotting the differently painted sculptures of Nick Park's dog Gromit from the Wallace and Gromit cartoon.  There are around 80 of these sculptures scattered around the city and one or two further afield, painted by celebrities and local artists, and the whole escapade is being done to raise funds for Bristol's Children's hospital.

For more details including the Gromit trail can be found on the official website at http://www.gromitunleashed.org.uk.

Overhauling the Tunnel 

Having a bit of time at home after a frantic four years working away had given me a chance to tackle one or two jobs like clearing the big polytunnel, reducing a surprising number of plants, and preparing for some replanting. Three of the pictures show the polytunnel in its heyday and the bottom right shows how the nettles and other weeds have taken over, looks very sad but give it a couple of months.  Because even just two weeks after the epic weeding session and with some intensive feeding, many of the plants that had the wow factor are on well on their way to recovery and I think it'll be quite a treat to view by the time the annual barbecue comes around (22nd September).

While I was weeding I met this little chap, coincidently while having a trans-atlantic conversation on Twitter about slug control.  This here frog and his froggy friends are my slug control and it seems to work well, and the recently planting of some hostas will be the ultimate test.  Unfortunately for those with smaller gardens there is a prerequisite and that is a pond for the frogs to breed in (fish are banned), a frustration for Theo in NY who's nearest pond and source of frogs is in Central Park.   

Also while weeding, I came across the patch of Fuchsia denticulata that I had planted but also some "runners" of this species which had rooted themselves some way from the parent plant.  There are a lot of Fuchsias that will layer themselves not the least in my case being a huge patch of Fuchsia regia var reitzii which has spread while my back has been turned!  In the past I have also had Corallina, that wonderful cultivar from 1844, travel along the full 40 foot length of the greenhouse, with an array of different colour variations imitating Tom West, Herbe de Jacque and Old Somerset. 

June 2013

See for Yourself
In the last week I have featured Echium pininana and Puya chilensis as being plants in flower and to look out for, and while I was enthusing about the RHS article below, Brian Hiley said look closer to home as both these magnificent plants are in flower in the gardens on Queen Mary Road, Falmouth.

So off I went with camera in hand and as you can see Brian was spot on, well worth a visit after which you can always have a stroll on Gyllyngvase Beach and take in some sea air.  My trip to the park may turn out to be a little costly as I took the long route through Swanpool where there was a cob, a male swan, on the verge and despite my creeping carefully past, he still took umbrage at the intrusion and I now have some swan-pecked paintwork on the car!

If you are not familiar with Falmouth, here is a map (good now I've found out how to drop maps into the website). 

View Larger Map

Sheep Eating Plant

Having put the finishing touches to the website, I've been starting to explore some of the other stuff loosely described as social media, including Twitter.  I'm finding it isn't just for kids but is used by a lot of local businesses, big and small, for communication of snippets to friends and customer.

It is turning out to be fun and informative, and this was the proof for me.  It came as a "tweet" from the RHS (@The_RHS), which took me to this article of the RHS Facebook page.  Instant and informative quite brilliant!

And of course relevant because, as Carol knows, I have one in the front garden, which has been there quite a few years and is still to flower (one day?).  But when it does, I just hope it fancies a bunny or two for a snack!

Vertically Challenged Gardening

Why is it that you only go and see places when you have visitors. And so it was recently, when we took some visitors from Northampton to St Michael's Mount and luckily the gardens were open under the National Gardens Scheme.  They are definitely worth a visit with succulents, agaves, aeoniums and statuesque echiums (E pininana), which for me is one of the most memorable of Cornish plants (not native but now endemic).

With its steep slopes it must be one of only a few gardens where gardeners need "rope access" skills and qualifications to do the routine tasks like planting and weeding!

Chilean Lantern Tree

Crinodendron hookerianum, the Chilean lantern tree,  is real favourite of mine and we have two mature specimens in the garden, both smothered in their  unusual brick red lantern-like blooms.  One was bought for us by my late father-in-law, Jack, as a present when we moved to Cornwall, and both thrive here with our well drained acidic soil.  And the bonus is that it is very easy to propagate with soft wood cuttings.

 New York, New York 

More by luck than design, I stumbled across another old Fuchsia friend in the USA last week.  I was looking to see if the lengthily named Windsor & Slough Chrysanthemum, Fuchsia and Pelargonium Society had a website, which I concluded they didn't but I did find them listed on a website called Fuchsias in the City.  My initial thought was that the city in question must be London but always curious I clicked on the selection and it was New York not London, and is a site built and run by Theo Margelony, an old friend I had met at a Fuchsia Convention in 2008.  

New York has a microclimate of its own with long hot summers and very cold winters.  While manning the BFS stand at Chelsea a few years earlier I chatted to Jane Milliman, an American journalist, and we discussed which Fuchsias might be hardy in new York and it took some while for it to dawn on me that by zero she meant 0ºF and I was thinking 0ºC, and that 0ºF is the challenge for Theo.

A few of his Fuchsias do survive outside but most need winter protection and with space severely limited in New York a greenhouse is out of the question, so the Fuchsias come in doors and they share his basement flat, as this picture shows.  And we whitter about the odd frost or two! 

 Yay!*  Our First Contact (for a while) Through the Web

I was chuffed today to learn from Carol that she had been contacted by Sally Giles, the secretary of the St Ewe Gardening Society, about a talk on Fuchsias next year.  It's great to know that the site can be found through Google and that visitors can find the information they need, or at least one could.  And the bonus is that another group of gardeners want to know more about Fuchsias.

* For those of an older disposition Yay! = Yipee!

Spreading the Word 

At a plant sale at my local Catholic church, Our Lady of the Portal and St Piran, last weekend while helping, I scattered around flyers for CRFS and our Show, as well some for our local Orchid Society (my thanks go to Leslie Sears for drafting the A5 version of our flyer at short notice).

My second smile this morning was to be told by one of my "customers" last weekend that she had learned from our flyer that Helen Glover MBE, a cousin of hers, is to be honoured by the naming of a Fuchsia after her that will be launched at our Annual Show.  So at least one person read our flyer and just maybe they'll come to our show to see it. 

Another Old Friend Pops Up
Paintings commissioned from George Morgan in 2009

I switched my PC on this morning to find two emails from a young friend, one time casual gardener and now accomplished artist, George Morgan.  One was spam, the result of his email and contacts list being hijacked by a virus, and the other an apology and thoughtful prompt to warn me and others about the spam one.  That said it's surely always great to hear from friends, no matter how it comes about and it's definitely a chance to catch up. 

My friendship with George goes back to I talk a gave to Reading & District Fuchsia Society in 2008 (later to become a nomadic member), and is the result of one of those happy co-incidences that we occasionally stumble across.  My theme, then and now, is that we overdo the TLC with our Fuchsias and should leave them more to nature to tend, a necessity for me habitually working away from home, and at this talk I mentioned that my casual gardener and full-time horticultural student, Nick, was moving and would be difficult to replace.  As luck would have it, Lew Dickinson, the R&DFS President, told me over the half-time cup of tea that his grandson was at Falmouth School of Art, knew what a Fuchsia looked like and weeds too, and might be as grateful for the income as I would be for the help.  And as they say the rest is history except to mention a bit more about the two paintings above.

While I was having my chat with Lew, I learned that R&DFS had commissioned a painting from George, featuring a Fuchsia and a humming bird, on recycled wood, and it was destined for Henry Street Garden Centre to acknowledge their generosity in allowing the Society to stage their annual show at the garden centre (for free you will note!!). It was and I guess still is a superb painting so I commissioned three more on the same theme and the same recycled medium from George, of which the above two hang at home and the other is in Oregon with two ladies that love birds and Fuchsias, who won it in the grand raffle at the 2010 Fuchsia Convention in Lake Oswego OR (near Portland).

If you are in the Bristol area on Sunday 9th June, you can meet George and see his work at the Hamilton House Open Day.   

May 2013

We're Back on the Web

At the May Committee meeting we agonised (not for the first or even the hundredth time!) about how to get the Society more visibility and exposure, and the need for a new website was highlighted.  Since the demise of the Beehive hosting some years ago, we had stalled as we looked at a go it alone approach.

By one of those lucky co-incidences I had reason to go to the West Cornwall Orchid Society website and found that it was hosted by BT using their own Community Website Kit, which is free, simple and requires no specialist skills (i.e. a site can be set up and run by anyone confident with MS Word and the basics of formatting text).

We've spent 30 months talking about it and hesitating, thinking that it was complicated and time-consuming, and in the end it took less than 30 minutes to register with BT, register a domain and get us back on the world wide web!  I could kick myself!

Thank you BT and well done!

2013 Fuchsia Convention, Stratford-upon-Avon (6-8 September)

Visits to gardens during 2008 Convention (Tacoma WA) and 2010 (Lake Oswego OR)

To celebrate their 75th anniversary the British Fuchsia Society (BFS) are staging an International Fuchsia Convention at Stratford-upon-Avon which is likely to be the grandest Fuchsia event anywhere this decade, and I now have my booking in along with Helen's.  The programme includes displays, nursery visits, talks from speakers from across the globe, and a chance to meet and eat with Fuchsia enthusiasts and friends, old and new, from all over the world.

I have been lucky enough to have attended previous conventions, once in the UK and twice in the USA speaking at the one in Tacoma in 2008, and they are fantastic gatherings at which you meet so many kindred spirits and make so many new friends, and with the internet it is so easy to stay in touch with them as indeed I have.

I can not recommend this event too highly.

Wife Swapping!
Virginia Ferguson & Woody Jones, 2008 (hosting garden visit during convention) and at home 2010

Well that's got your attention, particularly if you've come directly to this page from your favourite search engine. Two of the people I look forward to seeing at the convention in September are Virginia Ferguson and Woody Jones from Tacoma WA in the USA, with whom we've been great friends since I first met them in 2008 when Virginia was my "chaperone" when I was speaking at a Fuchsia Convention that the North-West Fuchsia Society were staging.

Most of you will know that Helen, my wife, is as disinterested in Fuchsias as I am obsessed and the same is true of Woody and his indifference to gardening, so the perfect solution for a Fuchsia packed weekend is for us to swap spouses for the daytime and Virginia and I can chat incessantly about Fuchsias and gardens, while Helen and Woody can escape and explore the delights and history of Stratford, Shakespeare et al.

Orchids, Goodbye to Monogamy?

Dendrobium amethystoglossum

I have always liked plants of all shapes and sizes although it's been a thirty year love affair with Fuchsias, some might say because they are easy, cheap and vigorous!  But after decades of being obsessed with Fuchsias I am increasingly becoming intrigued with orchids, and the various genera that make up the plant family Orchidaceae.  Unlike Onagraceae. the family to which the genus Fuchsia belongs, Orchidaceae is an absolutely huge family of plants comprising 880 genera and around 25,000 species, there is no chance of getting bored and there are loads in flower at any time of the year. 

After attending a number of meetings as a guest, I have finally got around to joining the West Cornwall Orchid Society, with whom CRFS are sort of "twinned" in that we increasingly support one another's events.  As I tend to work away from Cornwall, their meetings on the second Sunday of each month are really convenient and an eye-opener as when it comes to Orchids I am back to being a beginner without much of a clue.

Last month's talk was on the genus Masdevallia by Roy Cooper-Wood from Cardiff, and an excellent talk it was, but my attention was really drawn to the monthly display of plants in flower, not least a couple of Dendrobium species which had been grown by Laurie and were absolutely spectacular.

Getting in Touch, Staying in Touch
Christer and Maria Carlson "at home" in Stockholm and the Linnaeus Garden, Upsalla
Finally on the theme of the internet for now, this month has brought home the warming benefits of social networks and how it keeps us in touch across the world.  A bit of a post on Facebook about my recent travels initiated some banter with our old friends in Sweden and CRFS members Christer and Maria Carlson, who send their best wishes, as well as YouTube clips of the perils of driving in Russia.

             Helen R, Debbie & Ron Monnier                        Debron's Austin Allan, Tonii Nicole and Party Girls 

And similarly I have heard from another Fuchsia friend as a result of a similar post on LinkedIn (Facebook for grown-ups?) and that is Ron Monnier who I met at a convention in 2008 and at whose Fuchsia nursery in Woodburn OR, Helen and I stayed while in the USA the next year.  Unfortunately Ron and Debbie gave up the nursery later that year and Ron's prolific hybridisation programme went on hold, but I really hope he will be picking up the latter again soon as he was introducing some brilliant plants and new varieties.

Fuchsia excorticata

Everything seems to be dragging its roots this year, perhaps as unenthused by the weather as we are. One pleasant surprise is that the New Zealand "tree" Fuchsia, F excorticata, is still prolifically in bloom its flower laden with blue pollen, purportedly used by Maori warriors for face paint. The flowers go from purple to green with age, opposite to most Fuchsias, and it has attractive scruffy peeling bark which gives it its name.

I still smile remembering a talk some years ago to CRFS, at which a visiting expert proclaimed that F excorticata didn't grow anywhere in the UK; little did he know as the one in my garden is around 15 years old, 12' high spanning more than 15' and seems as happy as Larry on the leeside of a birch hedge.

This page is the CRFS Webmaster's self-indulgent blog and reflects his views and opinions, and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Society, its Officers or its Committee.