1943 - Today
Jo Geurts at work with ‘Daphne Schreurs’
This article about fuchsia breeder Jo Geurts (1943) was first published in the spring 2021 issue of the journal of the British Fuchsia Society.
This time we are guests of fuchsia breeder Jo Geurts (1943). Jo lives not that far from me, about 40 kilometers, in the beautiful old South Limburg village of Steyl.
Have you ever noticed how many fuchsia breeders live in small villages? One of the reasons may of course be that large gardens are often available in small villages, and that is of course more inviting to start a fuchsia collection than if you only have a small balcony. And when it comes to gardens, Steyl does indeed have a lot to offer!
The village has only 3700 inhabitants, but within its borders houses no less than three monasteries, all of which are still in use. These monasteries are surrounded by a large number of gardens, one of which is the Botanical Garden 'Jochumhof'. This garden was originally intended to introduce young missionaries to tropical plants. It's easy to imagine that this is an excellent environment for meditative contemplation, full of spiritual inspiration to get new ideas about fuchsia breeding.
Monastery in the center of Steyl Monastery garden 'Jochumhof'
Tell me Jo, do you still like living in Steyl?
Yes, you can say that! I was born in Steyl, but when I was eight years old my parents moved to Tegelen, a larger municipality near Steyl.
My father had a contracting business, which I continued with my mother when my father died when I was seventeen. In 1967 I married Annie, and we moved to an old house that we renovated ourselves, of course. The garden belonging to the house was quite small, but that was not a problem at the time because my busy work made gardening at that time more of an obligation than a real hobby. In 1996 we returned to our roots: back to Steyl.
We then bought our current house, also because of the larger garden that I needed for my new love: the fuchsia. Since then I have lived in this fantastic and highly inspiring environment just 100 meters from the monasteries and the Botanical Garden.
‘Annie Geurts’ (2006)
When did you first come into contact with the fuchsia and what attracted you to this plant?
It was at a big fuchsia show in 1992 in Baarlo (a village near Steyl) that I first came into contact with the fuchsia.
I loved the show so much that I even visited it a second time. I also bought some plants, among others 'La Campanella', 'Marinka' and 'Postiljon', and I registered as a member of the NKvF.
Shortly afterwards I bought some more fuchsias including 'Checkerboard', 'Celia Smedley', 'Fanfare' and 'Hermina'.
As we know the early years were nineties of the last century, the heyday of fuchsia in the Netherlands. At that time, the NKvF even had more than 6000 members.
The attraction of the fuchsia for me is the almost inexhaustible variation in shape and color of the flower.
I also found it a challenge to get the fuchsias through the winter healthy and undamaged, because I was told that this is not an easy task. And I like challenges, you come in the construction industry daily!
All fuchsia hybridizers have quite a few different fuchsias in the garden, including for crossing. Are the fuchsias your only plants or do you also have other plants in your garden?
My garden is indeed filled to a large extent with fuchsias. But I also have some pelargoniums and some trees and shrubs. As a result, the garden looks a bit bare in winter.
The nice thing about the trees is that they provide shelter to the fuchsias in the summer, which is more than welcome during the hot summers of recent years!
I have two plum trees, two holm oaks (Quercus ilex), two tulip trees (Liriodendron) and a fig (Ficus carica).
In the winter season, the fuchsias are stored in a greenhouse that is kept frost-free.
‘Daphne Schreurs’ (2011)
When did you come up with the idea to start breeding, and can you also tell us something about your innovations that you have introduced?
‘Jorien Ter Mors’ (2016) ‘Geurts Passie’ (2018)
The pistils are covered to prevent self-pollination.
I started sowing the seed I collected from picked berries in 1995, just like many other breeders have started. A year later I started with the more serious work.
It didn't really help that there was inside at the time relatively little easily accessible knowledge was available to the association about breeding fuchsias. Fortunately I received a lot of support from other NKvF breeders such as Jan de Groot and Broer de Keijzer.
My first attempts led a few years later to my first introductions 'Carlotta Fiore' (2002) and 'Mariabosch' (2004).
All in all, I released 17 new fuchsias, several of which are named after friends and relatives. My grandchildren have a large garden with many fuchsias, and of course they also have their 'own' fuchsias: 'Nick Schreurs' (2018) and 'Daphne Schreurs' (2018). And of course the fuchsia named after their grandmother 'Annie Geurts' (2007) should not be missing.
As my best novelties I consider 'Geurts Passion' (2018), Daphne Schreurs and Louis Hasselmann (2008). These fuchsias are loved by many fuchsia lovers because of the beautiful large flowers and rich flowering. I would also like to mention 'Herman Finkers' (2007), because this fuchsia was baptized by the well-known Dutch comedian Herman Finkers himself and honored with a song
“You are not really famous until a fuchsia is named after you”.
You have been active as a fuchsia breeder for about 25 years now. That requires a lot of time and attention. How do you keep it after all those years still the courage?
Fuchsias have always fascinated me and it is really a hobby that got out of hand. That's why I don't go on holiday in the summer and because I've been alone for more than 10 years since Annie died, the fuchsias determine a large part of my daytime activities.
Although I have to say that after the loss of Annie, the motivation has been a bit less for a few years. I also find it a challenge to cross with difficult botanical fuchsias that others do not succeed or very difficult to propagate.
If I understand correctly, you are overflowing with ideas. What are your plans for the future?
Like many other fuchsia hybridizers, I often have more ideas than the possibilities to realize them all. In the summer season, the priority is to make crossings with some of the cultivars I have in my collection have got.
In winter and early spring, various beautiful species come into bloom, which I then use to make crossings. I find that the most interesting part of my hobby.
Some of the goals are making aubergine-colored cultivars and orange triphyllas.
I have a nice collection of botanical fuchsias: F. inflata,
F. pilaloensis, F. juntasensis, F. magdalenae, F.cestroides,
F. boliviana and F. triphylla,
all of which I use regularly.
Several of these species are difficult to grow due to their tuberous root system, which is quite susceptible to rot. It is therefore always the question how they get through the winter and whether they flower well. But when the first flowers appear, it is always a fascinating and beautiful sight!
And Mario, since we don't live far from each other, of course you can always come by to 'borrow' some pollen.
Let's hope Jo, that the measures regarding corona will soon be a thing of the past, so that we can soon get together relaxed to talk about the fuchsias, about the successes and setbacks and to exchange ideas.
F. triphylla PB7760#6
F. magdalenae F. juntasensis F. boliviana
I totally agree, I'm really looking forward to it. The first time I am still busy because as a volunteer I do a lot of work for the Passion Play in Tegelen, which can now finally be held again. It is sure to be a great season!
THE PASSION GAME STORES THE EMOTIONAL EVENTS FROM THE LATEST DAYS OF THE LIFE OF JESUS.
From the glorious entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Last Supper with the Twelve Apostles, the betrayal of Judas, the condemnation demanded by the high priests Jesus, his painful crucifixion and finally his death on the cross on Calvary. It is those events which Christians commemorate between Palm Sunday and Easter.
Author: Mario de Cooker
Jo Geurts: ‘Mariabosch’, F. pilaloensis, F. inflata,portrait photo JG
Erwin Vandenbussche:‘Jorien Ter Mors'
Robert Czarnecki: ‘Annie Geurts’
Mario de Cooker: F. cestroides, F. triphylla PB7760#6, F.boliviana, F. juntasensis, F. magdalenae:
Sigrid van Schaik: ‘Geurts Passie’, ‘Daphne Scheurs’
Other photos: various internet sources.