Saturday, May 28, 2011

Color in the Garden: Fuchsia

Fuchsia is not for the faint of heart.

Look at it. It shouts. Occasionally it screams. It flaunts. It occupies a visual space unparalleled by other colors.

It was a color I never really wanted, a color that I deigned along with pink unsuitable for my garden.

And yet here it is.

The rhododendron and the dwarf azalea resided at 410 long before we bought the property. While I eventually removed the mammoth (read: unkempt, untidy, and unruly) butterfly bush with trunks larger than my forearm, I decided to leave in place the other two.  

Spring 2008 came and the two plants reared their color. There it was: fuchsia. Garish. Uncouth. Flamboyant. Domineering. And occupying prime real estate in my garden. Fuchsia, I imagined, is the young gay man who waltzes into a packed coffee shop (as happened in Denver once while Viet and I worked on our respective writing projects) who opens his suit coat and clearly mouths the word, “A-R-M-A-N-I” while pointing to the interior label. It is the woman in stilettos and painted face, sporting “bling” attached to nearly everything between head and toe. It is that motorcycle that disturbs a quiet neighborhood with its needlessly loud rumble, or the muscle car noise enhancing mufflers. It is the MINI driver who could not say no to Union Jack accessories—accessories in the plural: roof, side mirrors, rear view mirror, seat covers, license plate, stem valve covers, key chain, and sundry. At some point, charm, pizzazz, flash, and individual style and playfulness just cross over into another realm…
The azalea was small and could therefore be easily excised, but the rhododendron was larger and concealed the brick support base for the porch, and softened the angularity of the corner of the porch. I would need to wait, of course, because removing a plant in full flower is akin to murder in the human world. I don’t mean to suggest such removal will kill the plant. Rather, the act just seems wrong, synonymous with theft and unnecessary, deliberate maliciousness. 

But my shock and distaste gradually turned over to appreciation for, put in social scientific terms, fuchsia’s “wow factor.”

And they remain in my garden, unexpected mid-spring anchors, joined now (quite annoyingly, I might add) by a fuchsia colored peony that was marketed as “Benjamin Franklin Double Red.” Grrr….

Fuchsia cannot be tempered—one really can’t soften this rather fulsome color—but it may be paired with deep reds, blacks, rich greens, blues and either bright (chartreuse) greens or grey-greens to accent its inherent sophistication. I’m not sure I’ve done that; no matter, though: the rhododendron and azalea fuchsias don’t last long.  

But during that brief period when they are in bloom, they surely elicit their share of jaw-dropping. Welcome fuchsia into your garden and into your life, for sometimes we just need to be shaken from our foundations. 

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