Hans van Aspert
1952 - Today
Hans van Aspert busy with hybridizing work
This article was first published in the Spring (2020) issue of the journal of the British Fuchsia Society. (Text and photos are taken from the "Belleke" of September 2020)
The Dutch fuchsia hybridizer Hans van Aspert (1952) has been busy with his hobby for many years. Hans and his wife Ria have been living in Arnhem for many years. With his hybridizing work, Hans tries to make his city even more famous than it already was as a result of the failed Allied offensive Market Garden in the Second World War in September 1944. And he succeeds quite well! After his retirement a few years ago as a service technician at the English company Gestetner, he was given even more time to pursue his hobby. We are curious what new challenges he will take on and what the results will be.
Hans, you have lived in your current house for a long time. How did it all start and how have you arranged your garden over the years?
When we moved to the house where we now live about 40 years ago, I was not at all interested in a garden and plants. My father-in-law then cleaned up the garden, planted a few shrubs and sowed some grass. After a short time, however, I made some changes, inspired by my neighbor's garden, which was really overloaded with hundreds of self-sown annuals, a real show garden. That was a beautiful sight! I then adapted my garden on his advice. Many shrubs disappeared and borders were made, which were richly provided with old farmyard manure. And soon I got a lot of pleasure in sowing plants such as Ageratum, snapdragons, salvias, loosestrife etc. The plants in my garden now mainly consist of fuchsias but I also have begonias, pelargoniums and all kinds of cuttings such as: Persicaria capitata, Lysemachia numularia ' Aurea' and Streptocarpus saxorum for underplanting in flower boxes and pots.
So in your younger years the Fuchsia was not in the picture at all! When did you take your first steps in the fuchsia world?
Well, through my profession: repair and maintenance of stencil machines, I came into contact with the pastor of the Roman Catholic Church in Lochem, who had a lot of fuchsias. He gave me a few cuttings of a fuchsia that later turned out to be 'Bon Accord'. And then I was soon infected by the fuchsia virus.
My second fuchsia was 'Leverkusen' and many others soon followed, one of which I still have in the garden: a 'Beacon' bonsai. I didn't have a greenhouse at the time, so the fuchsias were stored in the crawl space during the winter in the first years.
You have clearly developed a deep love for the Fuchsia. What is the specific attraction of this plant for you?
The attraction of the Fuchsia is that the plant has such beautiful and elegant flowers. Fuchsia cultivars with single flowers generally tolerate the sun and rain well, and they also have a very long flowering time. And what also helps is that large plants can be made from many cultivars, which is often not the case with annual garden plants.
But love for the Fuchsia, Hans, is not yet a reason to start hybridizing. How did this time-consuming hobby come about?
While expanding my collection of fuchsias, I once came into contact with Gerrit van Veen at a nursery, who was in charge of a test garden with hardy fuchsias of the NKvF. More than a hundred varieties were tested there for winter hardiness. I then started to help Gerrit with all kinds of jobs and soon became a member of the NKvF.
One of the questions we asked ourselves was why there were so few white upright fuchsias on the trial field, and whether we could do something about it. The well-known Dutch fuchsia breeder Zwier Stoel then suggested that we start crossing ourselves with the white plants we had on the test field. The tasks were divided, and I was given the assignment to make crosses with 'Annabel' and 'Whiteknights Pearl'.
That must have been very exciting! How successful were your first steps in the breeding world?
'Gerrit van Veen'
Of course I still had a lot to learn in the early years.
For example, that you have to be very critical of your results, and generally throw away about 90-95% of your seedlings because otherwise too many look-a-likes will be produced.
I also had limited knowledge of the underlying genetics.
To give an example: I assumed that a white x white crossing would always produce a white fuchsia. Now I know better, of course it doesn't work that way.
70 seedlings were obtained from the 'Whiteknights Pearl' x 'Annabel' cross, but none of them had a white flower. But as a welcome side effect, it turned out that the hardy properties were passed on well, and later the cultivars 'Jaspers Kameleon' (2009) and 'Gerrit van Veen' (2010) were created from this crossing.
Fortunately, there are other ways to pass on the color white to posterity. Examples are the cultivars 'Ting-a-Ling' and 'White King', which can easily inherit the ability to produce a white flower. This has resulted in creating one of my best introductions, the almost white triphylla 'Phileine' (2013).
It is clear that hybridizing did not stop after the first steps in the field of hardy fuchsias. How did you proceed then?
I soon started setting my own goals. Examples are making a single-colored upright flower with a saucer-shaped crown, and making a purple upright flower. So far, that hasn't really worked. But as a positive result of these first projects, my first introduction 'Jaspers Donderstraal' (1990) came into being, which I still consider to be one of my better introductions. And furthermore, by making these kinds of crossings I have gained a lot of experience, which I can now use to advantage in researching new attractive possibilities. For example, I have learned that by staying close to the species, the outcome of crosses can be better controlled, especially in terms of flower color. Furthermore, sifting through published information on color shades of existing cultivars proves very useful for finding new directions and combinations.
Like many other fuchsia breeders, you use a prefix (a "kennel name") for your introductions.
Can you indicate why?
For my introductions I always use the prefix 'Jaspers'.
An exception is fuchsias that are named after people such as friends, and after relatives such as grandchildren. An advantage is that my plants are always together in nurseries.
After more than 30 years of fuchsia breeding, you are still enthusiastic and motivated. What kind of projects are you currently working on?
This procedure must be from 'Göttingen'. After I had achieved this, I switched to making purple fuchsias.
I had already tried trying to make a purple triphylla based on demethyst 'Göttingen' x 'Whiteknights'.
The result was a single-coloured flower with a long tube: 'Jaspers Lange Jaap' (2000).
The next steps arose from making crosses 'Göttingen' and F. triphylla x purple cultivars.
As a result, from the F. triphylla x F. colensoi x
F. magdalenae) another seedling 12-05-02 was obtained.
I certainly have no intention of stopping breeding in the short term. It is a fascinating and fascinating hobby, which brings many surprises and from which many valuable contacts arise with other fuchsia enthusiasts.
Furthermore, I am not really sporty, and that is why I consciously looked for a hobby in another field. And I still have to mention a third granddaughter in addition to the introductions 'Phileine' and 'Elize': 'Lieke'.
So even if I wanted to, I couldn't stop right now!
The most important point of attention at the moment is making new triphyllas.
In 2009 I started making crossings 'Göttingen' and
F. triphylla “PB7760#7” x 'White King' and 'Ting-a-Ling'. The result of this was a beautiful series of almost white triphyllas 'Phileine' (2013),
Jasper Lightning (2013) and Jasper Pink Pipes (2013).
These cultivars are all resistant to high temperatures and sun. Similar crosses have also produced fuchsias with double flowers, exemplified by 'Suna-May' (2015).
What was immediately noticeable was that these seedlings have monochromatic double flowers, something that is not really common with fuchsias.
Unfortunately, this seedling was not viable. Many seedlings from crosses based on
(F. colensoi x F. magdalenae) x (fuchsia with long tubus) do not appear to be the easiest plants.
Cultivars like 'Fuchsiana' (2018), 'Elize' (2018) and 'Jaspers Purple Pipes' (2019) are much stronger, but these are all originated from the crossing 'Thalia' x (double purple fuchsia).
We're almost through it Hans. But last but not least: what are you still striving for in the coming years?
A prize winner:
One of my goals is still to make a strong dark purple triphylla in the form of seedling 12-05-02.
A second goal is to make triphyllas and other fuchsias with a long tube plus a double crown.
As a third challenge I would like to mention making triphyllas in the form of a microphylla, as well as making long-trussed micophyllas and making double microphyllas. The first seedlings in orange and pink colors and with larger flowers and leaves and a longer tube than those of F. obconica have already been made from crosses F. obconica x F. triphylla.
These are exciting times!
Author: Mario de Cooker
photos: Hans van Aspert
foto archief Martien Soeters