When Fuchsia and Verbena Were the Rage

Plant collectors brought wonderful new garden plants to England in the nineteenth century.

Soon the plants decorated American gardens as well.

The verbena and the fuchsia were in that group

In Business History Review Cheryl Lyon-Jenness wrote an article entitled “The Nineteenth-Century Horticultural Boom in America.”

She said, “Colorful, long-blooming bedding plants like fuchsias and verbenas were all the rage.”

Fuchsia

The fuchsia, native to South America, came into English and American gardens about the same time in the first half of the nineteeth century.

Soon after there were many varieties of fuchsia.

Noel Kingsbury in his book Garden Flora said “A French book in 1848 listed 520 varieties [of fuchsia]. Forty years later aroud 1,500 were listed.”

Rochester, New York seed merchant James Vick (1818-1882) loved the fuchsia.

He wrote in his catalog of 1880: “The Fuchsias, as all know, are elegant flowers, delicate in coloring and exquisitely graceful in form.”

However he saw more value in them than simply house plants.

He said, “The usual plan is to obtain plants, flower them in the house a little while, and then consider them useless. This is all wrong.

“No flower will make a more beautiful bed or screen near the house or on the borders of the lawn, than the Fuchsia, if partially shaded; and it will even bear almost entire shade.”

Then Vick offered pots of thirty-six different varieties of fuchsia.

The price was 25 cents a pot, or $2.25 for a dozen.

Verbena

Verbena in the garden magazine Vick’s Illustrated Monthly (1880)

The annual verbena, or Verbena x hybrida, has a long history in this country. The plant is originally from South America but made it’s way to England in the early nineteenth century.

David Stuart wrote in his book The Garden Triumphant: A Victorian Legacy, “The Verbena had been in England since 1826.”

 Denise Wiles Adams in her book Restoring American Gardens says, “Verbena x hybrida was the result of extensive hybridization beginning ca.1840 between four species of Verbena.”

According to the December issue of the Southern Cultivator in 1855, Philadelphia seedsman Robert Buist (1805-1880) introduced the verbena to the United States.  The date seems to be around 1839.

It has been a favorite ever since.

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