For this entry, I'm delighted to hand over to Denise from wildaboutdevon.co.uk, who wrote to us with some of her ideas for gardening for wildlife:

I am not a very talented gardener, but I always make the effort to grow something that will attract wildlife, and fuchsias certainly do that.

It was beneath a fuchsia bush that I saw my first Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar. It’s a large caterpillar (some grow to over 10cm), named so because it is believed to look like an elephant’s trunk. I had been told of its fascinating behaviour: it has large eyespots towards its head and it is said to rise up and sway, to make itself look like a snake. I’m not sure if I agree with that analogy, but I was certainly captivated and somewhat amused. The adult moths, with a stunning pattern of bright pink and buff, feed on fuchsia flowers too (left).

During April of this year, some colleagues and I were discussing how our fuchsia plants seemed to be dead. I was kicking myself because I had read that they should be protected during harsh winters, and we had not long ago had a very snowy spell. So, I bought another one, ‘Mrs Popple’ I think. I planted my new fuchsia plant immediately and it grew very quickly.

The old one also came back to life in May so a large section of my garden became full of those striking pink and purple flowers. They were constantly visited by bumblebees throughout the daylight hours of summer and became even more valuable as the day length shortened and the flowers of other bushes had dropped off. The fuchsia then became a beacon for other insects needing some nectar before winters.

This is an excellent wildlife plant, especially for somebody like me who undertakes garden maintenance far too infrequently. The fuchsia is still flowering, even now.

Anonymous
  • Fuchsia magellanica is the biggest hit in my garden and is always covered in bees. I’ve found that the bigger and blousier the flowers the less attractive they are to insect.

  • Hi AQ

    That's a very good point you make - yes, it seems to be the case that in most garden plants, different cultivars have different success rates for wildlife, especially when it comes to nectar provision (although aspect and soil also play a part). It is one of the things I'm going to be seeking help from the readers of this blog next year during the main gardening season, where we pin down some of the best cultivars of various species :-)

  • Adrian, I'm fairly new at this, and not at all expert, but I suspect it varies from cultivar to cultivar. I live a long way north of you and have a very healthy, not to mention very neglected fuschia in my front garden. It has survived 26 years of hard frosts, to my knowledge, including he year it went more than 20 degrees below zero.

    It should be cut back quite hard in late March or April.