Exotic but Tough: Fuchsia Speciosa

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Oh, my aching muscles...

By Mary Gutierrez

Fuchsia speciosa has put on its late-summer show in my garden for the past three years, returning from the roots each spring. Even the nastiness of last winter didn’t kill it in my Seattle garden.

By the time next winter arrives, it will again be a knee-high shrub, its woody limbs clothed in six-inch felted leaves of the freshest green. I don’t clip back the bare branches of F. speciosa until spring leaves sprout around their ankles. They remind me where my plant is so I don’t accidentally dig it up in the late winter, when I start to rummage around outside.

I’ve always preferred the fuchsias with narrow, tubular flowers over the big, ruffly-petticoat jobs. It seems like many of the fuchsias with the less-flashy flowers offer more interesting leaves and form.

Those frilly fuchsias want to be the center of attention in April and May, while F. speciosa hangs back until late in the season to put on a tasteful show. New leaves are the color of early spring, momentarily letting me forget that summer is on the wane. F. speciosa isn’t afraid to share the stage with other part-shade plants like ferns and hydrangeas. She’s no prima donna.

The next time you’re at the nursery, look for Fuchsia speciosa and grab it if you find it--it's somewhat rare.  Every garden needs a plant that reminds the gardener of springtime in August.

This F. speciosa in the author's garden exhibits lush foliage and bright flowers.

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