Each year near the end of the summer months, I take out my pad of paper and make notes as to what plants did well for the season and which ones did not. Taking pictures of various items is also a good resource for later recollection. As I take the inventory, there are always things that did exceptional for the season or new things that I have tried for the first time and have decided that I really like in the garden. So often, the season tends to fly by where we miss many of the things that bloom at various times. Sometimes we just don’t take the time to appreciate many delicate flowers that seem to bloom in their own secret solitude.

This year I really took notice of the upright fuchsia plants that were planted in the garden. They are not a new plant in the yard, but I think it was one of the first times I really appreciated their beauty in the containers and shade gardens in which they were planted.

Frequently we hear about how fragile this plant is in the sun and the wind. Of course, these are concerns we must have living in the state of North Dakota. However, these factors do not have to be the reason why we shy away from them in the landscape. Many times it is just a matter of finding a protected area to place them, while still enjoying their wonderful characteristics throughout the growing season.

The fuchsia plants we grow in the garden can range anywhere from small plants to large hanging baskets or even the small tree variety in the upright selections. Their true draw happens to be their delicate flowers that seem to bloom in beautiful mixes of white, pink, red, lavender, magenta and deep purple. Some bloom in solid shades, but most have striking two-toned flowers that nearly look artificial.

Fuchsia plants are native to South and Central America, New Zealand and Tahiti. Luckily for us, we can obtain them in our own local nurseries each year when the growing season begins. They prefer bright locations that are protected from the strong winds and harsh heat of the midday sunlight. Cool shady areas seem to be their best zone to perform to their highest degree.

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My fuchsia plants were planted mostly in the ground this year with a couple in containers. They were the upright variety that reach about 8 to 12 inches tall with flowers that hang down from their sturdy stems. They really added that final touch to the mix of other foliage color and blooms.

If your plants ever become thin or leggy, simply pinch off the ends of the stems to promote more growth from within the plant. The more stems there are, the more blooms they will produce.

The flowers are born on thin stems that hang down from the leaf joints. They remind me of small oval-shaped, air-filled balloons. If you pinch them right before they are open, they pop and slowly open, but this practice can damage the flower. I think the kid in me makes it difficult to resist the temptation on many occasions. Don’t tell on me if you see me in a nursery with that deviant look on my face while passing one of the large hanging baskets of fuchsia. Never know when I just happened to have "popped" a couple of flowers.

When the flowers open they have four outer portions called sepals and the four central sections called the petals. These pendulous flowers have great contrasting color combinations, such as red sepals with deep purple petals, pink sepals with red or white petals, or both sepals and petals in the same color. The ones with the most brilliant colors have the ability to attract hummingbirds so this might be just the reason to try the bold colors in your garden. I like them both, but enjoy the pastels for a little cooling effect in the shady beds.

Some common varieties are ‘Alice Hoffman’ with pink and white blooms, ‘Dollar Princess’ and ‘Genii’ with their red and purple flowers, ‘Garden News’ with pink and magenta, and ‘Swingtime’ with a scarlet and white combination.

Even though our season seems to be coming closer and closer to an end, there is still plenty of time to take inventory of new things you might want to try next year in the garden. The fuchsia just happen to be one of those great flowers that add a unique dynamic to the garden, while giving the scene a little sense of fragility.

My plans for their use in the yard will greatly increase in the next growing season. My list of things to do is already two pages long and growing, and the winter season has not even come close to arriving yet. Let's hope it doesn't arrive as soon as last year! Heaven help me for making the next year a cheap one!!