Ginger parkin or carrot cake was the choice when I arrived to visit the Fuchsia collection held by Jack and Joan Lamb. News of our fondness for cake is obviously catching on. Fortified after my long drive up from Surrey I was soon being shown the photographic records of the collection; close up pictures of the flower and leaf and microscope images of the pollen alongside the description of the plant and its provenance. The extensive records help Jack with queries from ‘fuchsiaphiles’ from all over the world.
Outside in the back garden is the collection of species Fuchsia, housed in four greenhouses in the winter and moved into the borders and any available space in the summer.
It takes Joan 6 weeks to move the pots at each end of the season. Each plant is inspected, dead material removed, pruned if necessary and stickered if cuttings have been taken. Accession numbers are delightfully simple giving the year, the month and a number showing that it is the nth plant collected that year. Joan and Jack have been on collecting trips and the plant labels read like a gap year tour around South America with the place and country of collection and often the height above sea level.
Few of the plants seemed to be in flower but on closer inspection some of them have tiny booms, 2 or 3mm long which are easily missed.
The greenhouses are heated using gas, with an electric back up system and most of the plants have come through the past two severe winters. A spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) is housed in each greenhouse as a gas detector; if there are harmful gases coming from the heater, the spider plant will turn brown very quickly before any harm is done to the collection.
Jack and Joan are justifiably proud of their collection and they devote a huge amount of their time to caring for it, as well as researching the plants and sharing their knowledge with other gardeners.