This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Most of us have heard of the two disputants, one proving that the breath was a cooling agent by blowing on his hot coffee, the other that it was a warm principle by blowing on his half-frozen hands. Many disputes in the philosophical world are of a similar character. Nothing seemed to please Erasmus Darwin more than showing in the arrangement of the stamens and petals, how beautifully nature had designed that flowers should fertilize themselves; but his grandson Charles, the present Darwin, will take the same flowers, and show by the same structure, that self-fertilization is abhorrent; that cross-fertilization is the great desire of floral nature. In the old times a fuschia would certainly have been regarded as arranged for self-fertilization. The flower is pendant, and the stigma occupies the extreme point, with the stamens just above it. See, the ancient would remark, the pollen is situated so as to drop on the stigma. Again, if the ancient had lived to our day, and could see the species we now illustrate, he would get additional evidence. All our common fuschias have pendant flowers. Here is one from New Zealand, Fuschia procumbens, that has the flower erect. See, the ancient would say, just what I told you.
The pollen is arranged to self-fertilize. In the pendant flowers the stamens are above the stigma. In this erect flower it is the reverse, the stamens are above and the stigma is beneath, where the pollen can fall down on it. But the moderns discovered proterandry and proterogyny. That is, that in some flowers the anthers mature long before the stigma, or that the stigma was mature long before the anthers discharged pollen, and this gave chances for insects or wind to cross-fertilize flowers in spite of mere position, as these flowers show.
But besides these interesting philosophical questions which this Fuschia procumbens suggests, it is likely to render pleasure as a basket plant. Since its introduction, a few years ago, it has been grown as a pot plant as other fuschias are, to the disgust of all who have attempted to grow in that way. But it is not th"e plant's fault. It is not its nature. It is a trailer, and must hang down to do well. The engraving we give is from a plant grown in a basket by Haage & Schmidt, the celebrated seedsmen of Erfurt. As we see in the cut the plant is so vigorous in this condition that the form of the basket is scarcely seen through the mass ot foliage. We have to look closely to discern the basket and the strings by which it is suspended. The flowers are not brilliant in color as other fuschias are, but when numerous, as they are under the basket treatment, they make a good show. But the reddish black berries which follow, make up for the deficiences in the flower. Altogether, there will be found fewer plants more valuable for hanging baskets than Fuschia procumbens.
In the cut the flower is represented on the right, of its natural size, upright as it grows. The berry, of the natural size, on the left.