Lye’s Fuchsias

The group of Fuchsias an engraving of which appears at fig. 39 (above), represents a collection of nine specimens raised and exhibited by that well-known cultivator, Mr. James Lye, of Clyffe Hall Gardens, Market Lavington, at an exhibition held in Bath in September last, and which received the 1st prize in the premier class for that number of plants. For many years past Mr. Lye has exhibited Fuchsias at exhibitions held at Bath, Trowbridge, Devizes, Calne, Chippenham, and elsewhere; on all occasions staging specimens of a high order of merit; but the plants appearing in our illustration were universally regarded as the best he had ever placed in an exhibition tent. So much were the committee of the Bath show pleased with the specimens that they engaged the services of a photographer to make a picture of them on the spot; but after being two hours making the attempt, no satisfactory result occurred. After the plants were taken back to Clyffe Hall, they were photographed as seen in the illustration. So idea of their height and dimensions can be realised by a comparison with the stature of Mr. Lye, who is standing by his plants and who is of average height. It should be mentioned, that previous to being photographed they had travelled by road from Market Lavington to Bath and back, a distance of 52 miles, in addition to having been exhibited two days. They returned to their home apparently little worse for wear, which immunity from harm is no doubt owing to the admirable system of tying adopted by Mr. Lye. It is sometimes said that the act of tying-in the flowering shoots in this manner gives the plants a somewhat severely formal appearance, but there is an abundance of healthy foliage and a wonderful profusion of finely developed flowers, showing the most careful and painstaking cultivation. It is only those who are privileged to see these unrivalled plants who can appreciate them at their proper worth.

It has been stated already that the varieties figured are all of Mr. Lye’s own raising, which fact attests to the value of his seedlings, many of which he has produced. Four of these are dark varieties, viz., Bountiful, Charming, Elegance, and the Hon. Mrs. Hay – the latter one of the oldest, but one of the freest and scarcely without an equal for its great freedom of bloom. The remaining five are light varieties, viz., Lye’s Favourite, Harriet Lye, Star of Wilts, Pink Perfection, and Beauty of the West.

The specimens figured average from two to five years of age. It is really marvellous what Mr. Lye can do with a Fuchsia in two years, and lest it might be supposed that he has plenty of glass accomodation and keep his plants under glass continuously, it is due to him it should be stated that he is very deficient in house accomodation, having but two small houses, in one of which (a cold house) he winters his plants and brings them on until he can place them with safety in the open air in early summer. His method of treating the specimens as set forth in his own words may prove helpful to some of our readers: – “After the plants have done flowering, say about the third week in October, I cut them back into the shape best fitting to form symmetrical specimens, and keep them dry for about a week to ten days, to check the bleeding of sap which follows; after that I give a little water just to start them into growth so as to make shoots about three-quarters of an inch in length, in order to keep the old wood active and living. I keep them in a cold house, and give them but very little water until the first or second week in February, when I shake of old soil from the roots, and report them into fresh compost made up of three parts good loam, one part well decomposed manure, and one part leaf-mould and peat, with a good bit of silver or sea-sand to keep it open. In order to make large specimens they are shifted as soon as the pots are filled with roots. About the first week in June I place them out-of-doors on a border somewhat sheltered, and syringe the plants freely every day during the hot weather to keep the foliage clean and healthy. I top them back until about seven or eight weeks before I want to show them, according to the requirements of the variety, as some of them require it to be done more freely than others. I give them a liquid manure, using what I get from cows, which with some soot is put into a tub, allowed to stand a week or ten days before using, and I give them a good dose once a week as they show signs of flowering.” In order to preserve his plants from the effect of hail and very heavy rains, a rough framework is erected, and over this is stretched some floral shading, which can be readily removed when required; it also serves the purpose of shading the plants from the sun in very hot and scorching weather.

During his career as an exhibitor of Fuchsias Mr. Lye has taken nearly one hundred 1st prizes – a measure of success which fully justifies the bestowal of the title of being the Champion Fuchsia Grower of his day. R.D1.

  1. The Gardeners’ Chronicle, February 14, 1885. p.g. 209-210. ↩︎