Fall Blues? California Fuchsia to the Rescue

Fall is a trying time for gardeners in California. Even those of my neighbors who have a more traditional, well-watered garden don't have the lush landscape they enjoy in spring. And for those of us who favor drought tolerant plants, things start looking a little grim in late August, and deteriorate until the first rains in October (fingers crossed!).

Yes, fall is also the time that a few plants will bring forth a few dainty little flowers before taking a rest for winter.

Fall Blossoms on Monkey Flower
But it's not much compared to the profusion of bloom we see in spring and early summer. I feel like a proud parent must feel when the child puts on a good show - nothing spectacular, but much appreciated.

Monardella Blossoms in Fall
The story is quite different with California Fuchsia (aka Epilobium aka Zauschneria). She is the absolute star of the fall garden, much admired by visiting humans and beloved by hummingbirds.

It usually starts in mid July with the low-growing "UC Hybrid" cultivar that I bought a few years ago.

California Fuchsia "UC Hybrid" 
Growing just a few inches high, I appreciate this plant for the early start of the bloom time - and for being able to see something behind it. 

Then, in early September, my largest fuchsia patch starts blooming. These are plants that were gifts from a dear friend, so I appreciate them especially. 

California Fuchsia "Calistoga" 

It's a combination of two varieties. "Calistoga" is bright red and grows tall, easily to 4 feet if I don't pinch it. This plant reseeds, though not aggressively, and each fall I'm surprised by where I suddenly see splotches of red in unexpected places.

Salmon-colored California Fuchsia
The second cultivar is salmon colored. I have not seen it in the trade, and it seems a little delicate. But the large clusters of blossoms are beautiful. And the color seems just as attractive to humming birds as the bright red of the other cultivars. Here's a photo that shows them both - the bright red is in the background.

Bright Red and Salmon-Colored California Fuchsia
I'm hopeful the show will continue until December. Because California Fuchsia is such an excellent hummingbird plant, I usually let it be a little past its prime - but eventually, I cut all of them back to about 1 inch. By then, I'm ready for a tidier garden, and I know that with the rains the plants will grow back by late spring.

But for the next few months, I get to enjoy the splash of color and the hummingbirds coming to visit - the perfect cure for the "my garden looks terrible" blues.


David Cristiani said…
These Epilobium varieties are sadly missing where I live, yet fairly common in nearby areas. Your post reminds me on the need to use them more.