by Graham La Foy

Fuchsia as bonsai material? You must be joking!

Well, yes to a measure, I suppose, but for sheer fun & especially when in full bloom, it certainly adds a pleasing brightness to the bonsai-en.

This is no definitive or technical paper on fuchsias, merely my own take & pleasure I derive since being presented with a little Tom Thumb cultivar of the species some sixteen years back in Pietermaritzburg.

For some technical background to fuchsias, you will find Harry Tomlinson's "Complete Book of Bonsai," useful.

As mentioned, a friend belonging to a Fuchsia Society, gave this 3-inch Tom Thumb to me & egged me on to make a 'bonsai' out of it. Being new to the game, I thought, what the heck, give it a try! And so my long journey started with lots of fun, frustration, tears and laughter but in the end, much experience.

Harry Tomlinson, amongst others, suggest styles such as informal upright, slanting, semi cascade, twin trunk, root over rock, multiple trunks in all sizes (this & my personal preference for forests is by far the preferred ones).

My frustration with the more traditional styles was the unpredictability of the fuchsia die'ing back on the leading branch/trunk, for no rhyme or reason as far as I could determine, then merrily sprouting new shoots at the base where it had died back, then breaking off at the mere touching of the tree & so on.

The branches are very brittle which makes wiring not a good option for training. The clip & grow method is what I found to be the only viable way to go. You will thus find your tree with many straight zig-zag branches. Furthermore, this characteristic of 'self-destruction' results in a bonsai with a very short life span! I ended up, most times, restarting a new style with the new shoots taking over.

Talking of new shoots, this species is very kind in developing from cuttings in no time almost throughout the year. With or without hormone treatment, the success rate is ninety percent plus.

The fuchsia is very fussy where you position it. It hates the South-Easter and it hates direct sun.

Make sure it gets plenty of water, keep moist - it loves an overhead spray.

It is also a gross feeder, and it is needed if you want blossoms for a long time. Pinch out the withered ones frequently. Once a year I give it a few grains of 'Hydrangea pink food feed' (this will not change the colour of the blooms!)

Potting will be required once every second year, or as the soil is depleted. I add a liberal amount of acidic peat to my standard mix.

As far as suffering from any disease, there are none. Probably the previous owner chose his Tom Thumb very well or it was genetically free of disease. It gets a Rose Care spray from time to time; as a precaution only.

In conclusion, as hinted earlier, I found the forest style most rewarding for more reasons than one. First, it offers many challenges, is very colourful when in bloom and lastly, as the forest matures, you can 'pinch' a nicely developed tree out of it and restyle it into an informal upright or whatever!


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Sunlight dripping from tree

Slides off the periwinkle

And splashes on ground

Random Bonsai Tip

When creating Ishizuke or a rock clinging bonsai planting there must be harmony between the tree and rock, that is, the style of the tree and the shape of the rock must have artistic harmony and it must be natural.