Today's post brought me another mail order delivery of plants, this time of fuchsias which I'll use in pots by the front door and in the conservatory. I like fuchsias, and have been writing down the names of varieties that caught my eye at Chelsea for years without doing anything more about it than buying a few of whatever the local garden centre had on offer. And with the rabbits taking such a toll of the herbaceous planting in the open garden, pots close to the house where the rabbits are unlikely to venture seem an increasingly attractive option until such a time as we can eliminate the bunny menace.
The fuchsias came as plug plants, little rooted cuttings in mesh growing tubes ready for potting up, as is often the way when buying from a specialist grower who offers a huge choice. My pelargoniums when they arrive will be plugs though I think that supplier goes one better and roots cuttings to order, and Dibleys send out their Streptocarpus and Begonia as plugs. I found the firm by chance on the internet. I was all set to use a Suffolk supplier, only they did not list a variety with small red flowers called 'Katjan' which I had fallen completely in love with at Chelsea, for reasons I couldn't explain. The other firm that exhibited at Chelsea last year didn't appear to do mail order (though it beats me why not, when they went to the bother and expense of staging a Chelsea exhibit and fuchsia plugs are relatively straightforward to send by post). Hunting online for alternative suppliers of 'Katjan' I found one, a chap in Gloucestershire whose website said he had started the business as a retirement project because he liked fuchsias.
His list ran to over eight hundred varieties, all illustrated and comprehensively described, and although I'd not heard of him, let alone seen him at Chelsea, I was pretty sure he was genuine. Nobody goes to that much trouble to fake a website selling fuchsia plugs at £2.25 each, and Paypal are currently taking the buyer's side in the case of complaint, from what I've read in the papers. I was prepared to risk half a dozen plugs plus standard delivery.
I placed the order on April 25, and the plants arrived today. That's pretty quick. He emailed yesterday to say they'd been dispatched, so the Post Office twenty-four hour service worked fine, cost £4.41 for up to six plants. The supplier recommended special delivery as being the most reliable way of making sure the plants arrived the next day, but apart from costing £8.36 it meant the hassle of having to be around to sign for the parcel. The plants were securely packaged, clearly labelled and in good physical condition.
That's the good news. The bad news is that two of the six were substitutes. For a third of your order to be not actually what you chose yourself is not great. Fortunately 'Katjan' was included, otherwise I'd have been quite annoyed given that was the reason I'd gone to him in the first place. I am sure I agreed to accept substitutes, since I didn't want to end up paying the postage for only two or three plants. It's worth thinking about your strategy regarding substitutes when placing any order for mail order plants. Nowadays if there's one thing in particular that I want, or that makes up a large part of the value of the order, while the others are plants that I do want but could probably get elsewhere, I tend to specify that I'll cancel the order if they can't do the key element. Otherwise, you risk ending up with something that you don't want as much as the thing you originally chose, or else paying a delivery charge out of proportion to the list of plants they are able to supply.
The substitutions were reasonably intelligent without necessarily producing what I wanted. Instead of a red and purple single flowered bush fuchsia he'd sent a semi-trailing variety in a similar colour scheme. I didn't like it quite as much as the one I'd chosen, but as part of a collection of pots by the front door I'm sure it will be fine. The other substitution was trickier. I'd selected a species introduced into western cultivation in 1832, having pink flowers with green tips which tended to flower in the winter months. I liked the look of it, and thought it would be an interesting counterpart to the Correa in the conservatory, popularly known as the Australian bush fuchsia, which also blooms in the winter with pink and yellowish green tubular flowers. Instead I was sent a different historic variety, which produces very long, bright red, tubular flowers at the usual time of year rather than in winter, and which is said to need a very large pot in time because it grows nearly 4 metres tall. I daresay I can fit it in somewhere at the back of the conservatory, where it can be a friend for climbing fuchsia 'Lady Boothby', and as a bonus the berries are apparently good to eat and suitable for making pies or jam, but it is not really what I had in mind.
Presumably by way of compensation for the substitutions he sent me two extra plants free of charge, both hardy fuchsia varieties, one with graceful purple and magenta flowers, and the other with rather chunky white flowers quite unlike anything else in my order, and which I can't immediately imagine anywhere in the garden. I potted it up anyway, not having checked to see what it was at that stage, and haven't unpotted it because I don't like to be cruel to plants, and perhaps it will grow on me, or I will suddenly see how I could use it. It is said to like sun, so maybe it could be a companion for the purple and white potted dahlias? Meanwhile the pink and green flowered lovely which I would really rather have liked is still shown on the website as being available from late April.
So that was my fuschsia online buying experience, eight healthy looking plants for under two pounds each inclusive of delivery, most or all of which I wouldn't have found in my local garden centre, one of which I particularly wanted and half of which I didn't choose myself. If you want to give it a whirl the firm is called Other Fellow Fuchsias. It is named after a fuchsia variety called Other Fellow, which the owner particularly likes. I wasn't grabbed by its description, but it's a funny thing, what makes people like some plants more than others.