Hoe oud wordt een Fuchsia GB

How old becoms a fuchsia cultivar?

Interesting to know for the fuchsia lover, but also for the fuchsia hybridizer who introduced the cultivar.

If you see a large, well-groomed fuchsia cultivar on a show or open day, for example a 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' of more than one meter high, that is of course an eye-catcher and the question is quickly asked how old the plant is. The owner then proudly says that the plant is 10 years old.

You take that knowledge almost automatically.

Of course it is ten years ago that the proud owner has rooted or hybridized a 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' cuttings and afterwards lovingly cared the plant for years. But after all, the truth lies elsewhere. And if you then tell me that his 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' is now more than 100 years old then you will be looked at incredulously.

What more than a hundred years old?

'Gartenmaister Bonstedt'

Carl Bonstedt 1905

foto: T. van Schaik.

In almost all fuchsia cultivarnames in good literature and in self-respecting websites with cultivarlists, the name of the cultivator and the date of birth of the plant are mentioned. This was a regular habit in the fuchsia world.

With the increase in the number of fuchsia books and magazines, that use was gradually diminishing.

Fortunately, the use of the computer restored this use again. Yet you still see websites where this data is seen as a side issue. The year is not mentioned, or often incorrectly stated, usually negligently copied from other sites without proper checking.

Often you see that a year is mentioned for a cultivar which does not correspond to the dates of the parent plants of that cultivar. The cultivar is then older than its parents! A puzzle has often been created that makes the displayed information about the cultivar unreliable.

Carl Bonstedt

Photo: Dinge des Wissens

But back to our 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' which turns out to be more than a hundred years old instead of 10 years.

In 1905 Carl Bonstedt introduced the cultivar 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' a cross between F. triphylla and

F. fulgens.

He increased this plant by taking cuttings from it. This is called vegative propagation. From these pieces that were taken from the original plant, pieces were taken again and again for more than a hundred years.

A cutting that is cut off today is still a piece of the old plant that has all the genes that the original plant had.

Is such a plant never aging, is the next question that can be asked. Yes, there will someday be a time when such a plant will change or rather, it will age. When can not be estimated and little research is done about it.

However, it is known that our botanical fuchsias are probably millions of years old. But by that we mean that they have existed for millions of years. Undoubtedly botanical fuchsias will age, perhaps faster than a fuchsia cultivar.

But because these botanical fuchsias multiply in nature by new offspring that start over again, aging does not play a role. And because mutants can also occur in nature, the species adapts to the changes in their environment. Fuchsiacultivars against it are not seed-proof and do not have that possibility, their offspring will always look different.

If you then realize a cross between two botanical fuchsias such as Bonstedt did, then the basis is usually laid for a cultivar that has the potential to grow old. These plants usually have good qualities that encourage the enthusiast to propagate the plant over and over again in order to preserve the plant in the collections.

'Bon Accorde'   

Crousse 1863

The use of botanical fuchsias by hybridizers is not only intended to create new flower shapes and colors, but also to get good quality plants that, because they are popular by the lovers, can grow old. If a plant is obsolete, it can be discovered by the characteristics of the plant that change.

It may be that flowers and leaves become smaller and cuttings are harder to root. But mostly out of it in the growth properties.

In spite of the excellent conditions in which it is grown, the plant grows less quickly and is difficult to overwinter.

F. triphylla is one of the botanical fuchsias that exhibits this characteristic. The plant has become increasingly difficult in nature due to evolution and ecological conditions.

Fortunately, that is not yet the case in all areas where this plant occurs. Scientists have therefore endeavored to secure seed from healthy plants so that young F. triphylla plants can be cultivated again, which are again available for hybridizing purposes.

F. triphylla

Photo: J. van der Post.

In cultivars that originate from two other cultivars, it is different. Of course that conscious cultivar will have a botanical fuchsia as a parent somewhere very far away in his pedigree. But by crossing again and again with other cultivars, the qualities that the primal mother or progenitor, as botanical fuchsia, gave away at the very beginning, strongly decline. In the long term, such plants show changes that are usually not easily noticed, such as smaller flowers or parts of flowers, smaller leaves, other colors of flower and leaves. But also other properties such as poorer growth, harder to cuttings and fewer branches and therefore fewer leaves.

In the long run, such a plant will no longer be able to make it attractive for the lover to include him in his fuchsia collection. It is not yet the case with the majority of fuchsia cultivars. But by minutely describing cultivars with which the NKvF started at the end of the last century and with which all parts of the plant were recorded in terms of color and size, it is already possible to show differences in descriptions of cultivars that were made at that time and those to be done again.

'Exoiniensis'  ~  Pince 1843 

Photo: K. Spek.

It is even the case that, by constantly creating new cultivars by crossing cultivars which, in turn, have also arisen from cultivars and repeating it indefinitely, sometimes beautiful plants are created but that these plants do not grow old to become.

That this happens can often be explained by the fact that the parent plants have properties that are desired by the hybridizer. Like upright flowers, or easy to cross, such as 'WALZ Harp' for which the fourth generation of offspring is already in circulation.

Such plants do not become a hundred years old like our 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt' from the beginning of this story. Often, these plants eventually show difficulties in propagating and growing beautiful plants such as enthusiasts who like to see in their collection. The bloominess also often deteriorates.

In the long run, the cultivars are no longer desired by the enthusiast and there is no question anymore with the companies that grow cuttings for the enthusiast. Which makes the plant disappear from the collection and disappears from the stage.

And there are already countless examples of that.

The digital hybridizer.

The digital hybridizer.

Hybridizing from Twrdy from 1866

1 - Schwan                             4 - Goliath

2 - Majestica                        5 - Erinnerung an Humboldt

3 - Spectabilis                     6 - Fürst A. Schwarzenberg

7 - Fürstin v. Dietrichstein

'Dominyana'    ~  Dominy 1854 

The hybridizing of fuchsias has been done by many hobbyists since the last decade of the last century without even thinking about what they are doing.

Hybridizing can be a fun side hobby in having and keeping fuchsias, but it does not make sense like it has recently been done on a large scale at home and abroad.

In this digital age with excellent opportunities in the field of photography, you see that more and more people are hybridizing more and more fuchsias. Some with little knowledge, others with more knowledge and sometimes with technical delights. These people bring innovations that are sometimes beautiful or less beautiful. New items that are really new or look-a-likes.

Innovations that are qualitatively good or what bad plants are. It does not matter. The plants get a name and they are registered in the AFS-register and they place a photo of the plants on a website. And with that the stocking is finished and you can add another result to their honors list.

These are the contemporary digital hybridizers.

In the south of the Netherlands and in Belgium there are many hybridizers that the rest of the Netherlands has never heard of, let alone that they have seen the dozens of plants of these hybridizers.

  "You can still see them on the internet" is the cry that is suggested.

Yes, really, it is completely ignored that this way of working is nothing more than presenting your own fame, while the fuchsia lover has a false mirror. If you experience several times that at the end of the year new fuchsias are registered with the AFS, and they are placed on the websites by the hybridizers concerned without being able to bring cutting material to the cuttings, then you are really wrong.

You can compare it with a manufacturer that only promotes its new products on the internet and does not provide the stores.

  You can then safely conclude that the new cultivars do not grow old and that they are no more than fairy-tale characters in the picture book on the website of those hybridizers.

Even in the days when the Netherlands had thousands and thousands of fuchsia enthusiasts, efforts were already being made to reduce the range of novelties. This was attempted by means of new inspections and exclusions from the inspections. But one can not, as an association, decide what happens to someone else's property.

You can, however, make agreements about it, but keeping to agreements often involves many people in that group.

'Waternymph'  ~ Story 1855 

Photo: M. Jansen.

The "Floralia" by H. Witte, the first book written in the Netherlands about Fuchsias from 1882, full of very interesting treatises on the early days of Fuchsia history.

Photo: S. van Schaik.

Now in the last years for various reasons such as aging, less free time etc., the number of fuchsia lovers is greatly decreasing it seems that the supply of new cultivars is increasing.

The number of companies that sell fuchsia nets has been greatly reduced. Some of these closed because it was no longer worthwhile due to the shrinking file of enthusiasts. Others follow because one reaches a high age and the succession no longer finds it financially attractive to continue it.

The companies that remain are counted on the fingers of one hand.

The companies that remain are struggling to keep their heads above water and are forced to clear up large parts of their collections to save costs.

Also, these companies do not need a real deluge of new cultivars. All in all, these developments ensure that in the foreseeable future many new, but also much older, cultivars will no longer get the chance to grow old and disappear.

But no matter how strange it sounds, these developments of the last decades are not new. Now that the contemporary digital world allows a broad public to consult information that is hidden in old documents and catalogs, it is possible to see what happened in the field of fuchsia hybridzing in the past.

In the period of time from when the first cross between two species was performed by human hands, in 1835 until the second world war in the following century, fuchsias were hybridized in various countries around the Netherlands.

In that period, hundreds and hundreds of cultivars have been hybridized and traded. Because trade was in that period the motivation to create new cultivars. It was mainly plant nurseries that hybridized fuchsias to enlarge their assortment. The hybridizers of that time who did not manage a nursery themselves sold their new cultivars for big money to these nurseries. The fuchsia was then still something exclusive and not a disposable plant as is happening today.

Fuchsia books were not yet published and cultivar lists as we know them did not exist yet. It is the old catalogs of those companies that have now been digitized and give a good insight into what was happening on the market for novelties. Complemented with old drawings and scarce color plates, it can be seen that, despite the lack of knowledge that modern hybridizers have, they were already able to achieve good results.

The use of botanical fuchsias was limited to only a few different species until the end of the nineteenth century, which were also difficult to obtain. You can say that the entire hybridizing event relied on the experiences gained during hybridizing.

10 Fuchsias from 1863 from different, sometimes unknown hybridizers.

Front page and two pages from Thornburn's Annual Catalog from 1851 with Fuchsias from that time.

Source: www.biodiversitylibrary.com

What is remarkable from this period up to and including 1940, is that of the hundreds of cultivars from that time only a few dozen have been preserved that are still in circulation (as long as it takes).

Similarly, 'Venus Victrix' by Guilliver from 1840. A pedigree of F. magellanica.


The very first natural hybrid (cross) is 'Speciosa' from 1835, found by Presl from Great Britain. This is a cross between F. fulgens and F. splendens, and is still available at nurseries.

The fact that these dozens of very old cultivars are still available is in most cases due to the fans of the time when the plants multiply again and again. That they did this and that they succeeded had nothing to do with only the appearance of the flowers that the plants displayed.

In that early period, the old coloring pages and the catalogs teach us, many fuchsias have been hybridized and also doubles that today would be directly embraced by the current fuchsia lovers. There are even those of which in our contemporary immeasurable assortment we encounter the equals under a different name.

'Venus Victrix'  ~ Gulliver 1840

Photo: J. van der Post.

'Speciosa'  ~ Presl 1840

Photo: S. van Schaik.

The reason is that those old to very old cultivars from that time still exist today, may be clear.

It was the quality of the plants that took care of that. Good growth properties combined with good-flowering properties, not to mention: easy wintering and propagation. These were the plus points to be able to grow old to very old as a culture plant.

'Tom Thumb'  ~   Baudinat 1850

Photo: S. van Schaik.

Unfortunately, much is changing in this modern time in the fuchsia region. The fancier population is aging and is therefore decreasing considerably. Companies that grow cuttings for enthusiasts disappear, causing large collections of nutplants to disappear, including the oldies who have given the fans a lot of fun for decades.

But completely contradictory, hundreds of new cultivars are still offered by the hybridizers every year. New cultivars, including a part that really adds something to the range that is still available.

These novelties, which in the eyes of the hybridizers and enthusiasts are really excellent, do not have a long life. The cause of this is the oversupply.

After all, every year there are new highlights on the market, and even as a fuchsia enthusiast you simply can not own everything. Beautiful new quality fuchsias that were introduced only a few decades ago and were fiercely wanted by fuchsia enthusiasts, are now no longer wanted or are hardly available anymore.

Actually, this is an assignment for the serious hybridizers. That assignment would be that everyone should make an effort to preserve his masterpieces. In case there is a revival in the fuchsia hobby in Europe, just like in the past.

But unfortunately, hybridizers' corps is also aging and that is not a solution.

Do we go to a time when the cultivar lists are well filled and the websites about fuchsias protrude from the photos of fuchsias that once saw the light of day?

Some for centuries, others for decades or just a few years, and a part that has only lived for a few months just for the photo on the internet.

Stopping breeding is usually not an option.

After all, they want to use and enlarge knowledge. That is man's own, and that applies to breeders to a high degree, for which the hybridizing and the acquisition of fame and fame has become a kind of addiction.

But would not it be more sensible to bundle all the knowledge and experiences that have been gained in hybridizing science and to ensure that it is preserved for a period when the fuchsia hobby is flourishing again?

'Lena'  ~  Bunney 1862

Photo: S. van Schaik.

Author: Martien. A. Soeters.

Sappemeer  July 2017

'Beacon'  ~ Bull  1871

Photo: Sjaak Loef