Fuchsias in New Zealand (1900s – now)

Mt Cook E

FUCHSIA’S IN NEW ZEALAND (This excludes native fuchsias).

During the mid-1850 up to about 1914, approx 400 Fuchsia cultivars were brought into Australia and New Zealand from Europe by early settlers and horticulturists, as shown on very early catalogue’s. One such catalogue was written by John Wright relating to Fuchsia’s introduced by importers before 1914,
where the named varieties and which nurseries that these where to be found in New Zealand and Australia.

The only nursery in New Zealand mentioned at that time was D.Hay & Son, Montepellier Nurseries in Auckland between 1903 to 1906. of which cultivars they had available at that time, some of the plants’ introduction date and identified by the breeder are from mid to late 1800’s. (This does not mean that fuchsia plants were not brought from Australia, as there were no import restrictions on plants for many early years of the 20th century).

During WW1 it is doubted that any fuchsias were brought into the country and in the 1920’s there may have been a few plants imported not known by the author if there are any records of these. With the number of Americans who arrived in the country on leave or prior to being sent on active service during WW2, there were a few soldiers who decided to return to New Zealand after the war and who brought with them many American hybrids and cultivars, so began a new era of growth and the enthusiasm began.

Unsure who started or organised importation of Fuchsias during 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s, nor if there were any restrictions during those years on stage relating to quarantine. Breeders within the country tried their hand at pollination between various fuchsia’s, creating many unique plants, the following are growers names noted in the NZ Register, compiled by the late Jock Penney, who spent years delving into records, contacting growers, recording his findings, the results are now found on the NFS register with the known records of 1000’s of varieties in New Zealand.

Some breeders only had a few successes example L. Smith, J.Moir, Rankin, Hunt, H.Moore, where-as some breeders presented us with a multitude of varieties, R.Sharpe, M.Butcher, Mrs Daue Rankin, H.Moore.

Some plants “discovered” “found” by growers (where one or both the parent plants are not known) example: by H.Brightwell, D.Proffit (Gro-wel Fuchsia’s, D.McConchie, S. Lingham (Canterbury Fuchsia Centre) V. Thomson, T.Barton, Tinwald Nurseries :- to name but a few (including those breeders above) especially chance findings eg; others are “sports” from parent plants which have varied from the original, many of above growers had sports “found” amongst their listings.

The author had the opportunity to visit R.Sharpe in his later years, when he was still hybridising and the thorough inspection of each plant for selection with all notes, then onto D&Son, R..Proffit at “Grow-wel”.

Fuchsia’s, where the plants were grown on for 2-3 years and evaluated, if Bob or Doug were not satisfied then that plant was destroyed and records retained that it had been destroyed with no cuttings taken. There are 100’s of named plants are identified but no known grower, were these named from cuttings? Or when name labels have been lost “new “names placed on the plant resulting on purchaser’s getting a “new” “old” plant? Sometimes a person gets cuttings and “thinks” of a name “like”, unbeknown this can result in wrongly named plants getting to potential growers.

Wrongly named plants are probably the biggest problem which faces a collector, who might find out what the plant name ”isn’t” but not what the plant name “is” Very difficult unless the plant has a unique leaf, bloom, growing habit, photographs do not help, must see the live “correctly” named plant.

Are there sufficient named plants within New Zealand, that is a question to be asked, many of the known varieties have “disappeared” and very hard to find, or known growers are now no longer in business, closed or passed on. It is unfortunate as these people have a world of knowledge and without it written
down the newer grower heads for the new imports.

The older growers have the knowledge of the older plants, their attributes and downfalls, many of the crosses have lost their ability to withstand disease and insects and though they are outstanding blooms and plants, they have weak points, an example is orange coloured fuchsia’s which are very prone to rust.


Don Moir, March 2018