The problem with crowded floral exhibitions is that you inevitably end up in someone else’s photograph, possibly mid-sneeze. So after getting some hapless flowers to model for me I gathered up my skirt and my dignity, snuck off to the side, and found myself staring at a pot of fuschias in a surprisingly quiet corner.
A genus of flowering plants named after the 16th century German botanist Leonhart Fuchs, most of the 110 Fuchsia species of are native to Central and South America, and are largely tropical or subtropical. Leaves are opposite, and grow in whorls of three to five. But perhaps the most unique characteristic of these plants is their flowers, which look like little lanterns and generally have two colours: the sepals being one, and the petals being another. Its colours and appearance are thought to help attract hummingbirds, and to me, they even look a little like the birds themselves. Happily enough for gardeners and foraging hermits, the berries of all Fuchsia species are edible, although some species appear to have better tasting berries than others. Flavours have been described, not exactly very scientifically, as being ‘lemony, spicy, pomegranate, bitter, and super sweet’. According to some, late summer through autumn is a good time to harvest the berries, which can be made into jams or jellies. In fact, a company appears to have bred a new strain of fuchsia with large berries meant specifically for consumption, reportedly tasting somewhere between a fig and a kiwi.
Although quite versatile, these plants prefer growing at cooler temperatures, with plenty of shade. In Singapore’s hot 30 degree (Celsius) weather, these were planted in a cooled greenhouse at the Gardens by the Bay. They like moist, well-drained soil, and can be propagated with stem cuttings. Like most other slightly finicky plants, they can be quite susceptible to aphids and gall mites, microscopic plant parasites that cause damage to host plant tissues.
Perhaps the crowning achievement of fuchsias, besides being pretty and pretty edible, is the naming of a colour after it. A French chemist patented a new dye called fuchsine in 1859, although the first recorded use of fuchsia as a colour in the English language came much later in 1892.