The Case of the Carry-over Fuchsia

When it comes to plants, I’ve always had a black thumb. My efforts to make poinsettias last from Thanksgiving to Christmas have always ended in failure. I inherited my mother-in-law’s jade plant and managed to kill that too. When we lived in Tucson, with a yard that was mostly rock and dirt initially, I spied an iron iris—an iris sculpture really and truly made of iron—and bought that on the mistaken assumption that I wouldn’t be able to kill that. But guess what? The paint wore off and what was left was a very rusty and decrepit looking iris that eventually got hauled back home to Seattle.

Ten years or so ago for Mother’s Day, my husband, Bill and my son, Tom, took the iron iris in hand. They coated it with Rust-Oleum and then put on layers of blue, yellow, white, and green paint that made it look like a real iris again. It went into our as yet unremodeled yard, sitting against one panel of the pool room/garage, stuck in among all the yucca. By the way, whoever thought of surrounding a swimming pool with a border of yucca didn’t understand yucca! Talk about taking a bite out of your bikini!

Alan Burke came through and transformed our yucca/astro-turf/leaky fishpond back yard into a living, green paradise. When the yucca left the pool yard, so did the iris. It ended up down in the far corner of the yard on the far side of the now non-leaky fishponds where it was recently joined by a quirky, butterfly shaped bench. When the leaves are green, the iris is almost completely invisible, but when winter comes, it’s a bright splash of color. If you study the accompanying photo closely, you may be able to glimpse the iris hiding in among the leaves.

Before Mother’s Day each year, my daughter usually goes to a local supermarket’s nursery on Fuchsia Saturday and brings me two baskets. Being a non-plant person, I used to hang them in full sunlight where they almost immediately shriveled and died. Now there are two Japanese maples where there used to be YUCCA! I’ve learned that by hanging the fuchsia baskets in the dappled shade of those, the fuchsia do far better.

Last year’s basket of magenta and purple fuchsias were especially beautiful, and they lasted far into October. When it came time to do the fall cleanup, the gardener cut them back to the main stem and left them hanging there. So did I. Then winter came—winter for sure last year. It snowed. It froze. This spring when it was time to start walking laps around the pool, I went over to the baskets, intent on taking them down and tossing them. But then I noticed a tiny green circle right around the base of the stem. So I let them be and started watering them again, telling my daughter no fuchsias this year for Mother’s Day. Last year’s batch seems to be returning for round two.

Summer came late and briefly to Seattle this year, and the fuchsia pots have had to come back from way behind goal. Rather than being a fully loaded basket of greenery, only a few scrawny branches finally leafed out. But the resulting flowers are beautiful. Maybe it’s because the entire blooming effort of the plants are focused on those few flowers.

I think there’s a lesson here, and it’s not just survival of the fittest. It also has a lot to do with making the best of what you have no matter how humble your beginnings, no matter how much of a struggle to survive. Go ahead and brighten the corner where you are, and smile like crazy while you’re doing it.

And this winter? Maybe I’ll put my carry-over fuchsia pots in the garage and see if they’ll carry over into year three.

9 thoughts on “The Case of the Carry-over Fuchsia

  1. We live about 1 1/2 hours south of you. Our fuchsias are on their third year. My husband cuts them back and hangs them in the greenhouse. There is a heat lamp in there if it gets extremely cold (he also carries over the geraniums). By spring a few branches leaf out and now they look like the full baskets that are sold at the nurseries. As I write this, the hummingbird is working his/her way around the flowers looking for nectar.

  2. I also possess a black thumb. Many years ago a friend offered me her enormous corn plant. She said “you can’t kill these things.”
    Yes. You. Can. I. Did.
    So no more indoor plants – of any kind.
    I can manage to keep some outside plants/flowers alive but I’m not keen on it – that’s my husband’s job.
    Recently he brought home a small bodhi tree from our temple. It needs to be replanted and will need to come indoors when the temps fall.
    The poor thing.

  3. In our family, we refer to that as brown-thumb gardeners. In case you are wondering, yes I am one. The only indoor plant we have are made of silk and just need to be dusted.

    Your final paragraph resonated with me. You are correct in that it isn’t the survival of the fittest. Having a chronic illness, now requiring me to be listed for a transplant, I have learned to live life to its fullest every single day. I dance like no one is watching, smile like I’m up to something, try to pay it forward daily and I make sure we are always making memories. It’s not what you get out of life, it’s about how much life you put into living.

  4. Rhododendrons and azaleas are closest to foolproof in Western Washington in my experience. I haven’t much of an idea about Arizona plant life except to avoid touching most of it.

  5. I too have a brown thumb. How I got it, I don’t know since my Mother had the ultimate green thumb. A relative had a tree my Mother really liked so she cut off a small branch and just stuck it in the ground in the middle of our yard. I laughed, there was no way that thing would grow, but it flourished and 30 years later had a trunk one foot in diameter.

    One time she gave me a avocado plant she had started from a seed. By the time I drove home 150 miles, it was dead.

    I do have one success. When I bought my house there was a a 20 foot walkway to the front door. Between the walkway and the house was a 5 by 20 foot strip of volcanic rock. Beneath the rock was a sheet of black plastic. After about 6 years the plastic started to deteriorate and suddenly iris plants started to spring up. I was shocked that the bulbs could be dormant that long in the direct sunlight with no water. Five years later when I sold the house, I had a full bed of iris plants that survived my Brown thumb. Who would have thought…….

  6. I enjoyed your story on growing Fuchsias. It’s way too hot where I currently live to grow them. As a kid, I enjoyed popping the flower portion much to my mom’s anger. It was nice to have little brothers to blame.

  7. I don’t have a fuchsia plant now, but have had them over the years. They were in hanging pots that I put on evergreen tree branches. They didn’t get direct sun and did very well outside. I have a poinsettia that is two years old. It has a few red leaves, but not like it was at first. Am just glad it is still living.

    I think folks over-water house plants, That’s what kills them—-wet roots.

  8. I still pop a few of my own fuchsia buds & it has lots of flowers! Something so satisfying about that. hee hee I used to pop our neighbors fuchsia buds too…just love that little pop! My flowers in my front yard flourish- and they all die in the backyard (facing North).

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