Climbing Fuchsia 'Pink Fizz' from Thompson and Morgan was another introduction to the garden this year. It is, they promise, the next generation of climbing fuchsias and a huge improvement over 'Lady Boothby'. Also noteworthy, the dangling pink blooms are produced along the entire length of the stem and not just on the tips.
Now, I have to admit to being a fuchsia virgin, so this didn't mean a great deal to me, but I'm hoping that you might be excited. Here's what it looks like on Thompson and Morgan's website:
The plants we received were certainly floriferous. Once they got going, they flowered their little hearts out.
However, they're also supposed to give honeysuckle and clematis a run for their money. Their vigorous upright stems can, reportedly, extend up to 1.5m (5ft) in a single season, making it perfect for covering walls, fences, arches and obelisks.
For reasons that I put down to computer error, T&M generously sent me a plethora of small plug plants (which they call 'postiplugs') and two tower pots, meaning that eventually I got to plant out two test pots with three plants each, one in May, one in June, allowing a handy comparison of their preference for my father-in-law's garden or mine. Both pots were filled with Incredicompost with Incredibloom slow release fertilizer mixed in (this is what came with the pots).
Mine started in full sun most of the day before I read a bit more and moved them to a spot that's shaded all morning. My husband put his straight into a lightly shaded border, with dappled sunlight.
And we waited.
We waited some more.
In July I wondered if I had misunderstood. Should the flowers be removed, as had been advised with the climbing geraniums, until the plants reached the top of the tower? I contacted Customer Service at Thompson and Morgan (they're always magnificently swift to reply, in my experience). This is their advice:
The final position we would recommend in patio containers would be in sunny or semi-shaded areas. It is important you choose a site where they are protected from cold winds especially over winter.
I suggest giving the plants a high nitrogen feed which will boost growth. Also keep the pot on the drier side to encourage plants to search for moisture and create a better root structure. A foliar feed could also be beneficial if applied in the evening when there is no sun.
I have to admit I ignored all that feeding malarkey; they already had fresh compost and fertilizer, looked well fed, and I don't like overfeeding because it tends to make leaves soft and sappy and vulnerable to pests. It was pretty wet a lot of the time, so keeping them drier wasn't really possible without bringing them indoors. Perhaps that discouraged them.
So possibly I deserved the fact that, by the end of the summer, the plants were barely higher up the tower than in July. My husband's charges include a couple that have reached half way. Here's the tallest of mine:
I've decided to leave them in the pot for next year, and they're still outside. The T&M website does promise hardiness:
Tolerating temperatures down to -10°C (14F), this hardy fuchsia is tough enough to be permanently planted in a border getting bigger and better each year. Height: 1.5m (5'). Spread: 90cm (36").
I've been slow on the uptake but it's gradually dawning on me that it's best not to expect a great deal from any perennial in its first year and that one shouldn't be too excited by marketing hype. Generally, exuberant descriptions of height and harvest seem to take the long view.
Review of Tower Pot
The other part of this experiment which was new to me was the Tower Pot. When it arrived I did cringe a bit - it's plastic, and is decorated with touches of bronze, for reasons that escape me. The trellis rises to approximately four feet (120 cms) above the ground. However, while the frame is flexible, once it's clipped into the top of the pot (it clips in and out easily) it feels solid enough, and once foliage is in full fettle it will definitely disappear into the background.
I do wonder how long it will be before the plastic becomes brittle, but certainly it's a very quick and easy way to create a home for a climber. If you visit the geraniums mentioned above, you'll see, though, that it's perfectly possible to make a very serviceable (and I predict - but I could be wrong - longer lasting) climbing frame from wire fencing. It'll just require a bit of effort in the cutting.
Anyway, I wasn't exactly bowled over by Pink Fizz this summer, but perhaps I deserved it. I think I should schedule a follow-up review of it (and the Tower Pot) for next year. If you tried Pink Fizz this year, let me know how you did. The worst you can do is make me feel inadequate...