Fuchias in the City
On the Trail of the Fuchsia.
Here, there, and everywhere. Well... almost.

One of the things I love to do when traveling is to try and find any local fuchsias. I’ve been able to turn up at least one almost everywhere. Except on a trip to Morocco. Sigh. I guess that desert just didn’t quite agree with my quest. This is especially funny since it was a glossy magazine article featuring an amazing walled garden in Marrakech that inspired my friend and I to go there in the first place. Surely those beguiling bougainvillea, tumbling with such colorful abandon over white stuccoed walls hinted at even more beguiling gardens inside? Sadly, mostly not. For fuchsias at least. So here’s my collection of fuchsia sights. These may not be the Eiffel Towers or the Great Walls or the Taj Mahals that move most travelers but fuchsiaphiles might none-the-less understand the moment. Unfortunately, many of the plants are in use without labels and remain mostly unidentified until I can take a closer look.
This was a quick trip, and we didn’t really get far out of Schöneberg or Berlin-Mitte, but I still did manage to find a few fuchsias lolling about. The funny thing about the florists of Berlin, I was told by a gardening friend, is that they offer two sorts of fuchsias: hängend oder stehend. “Does it go into a window box sitting on a ledge or hang over the balcony rail, or does it go into a pot standing on the floor?” It’s eminently practical, I suppose, but considerably less exciting in a city potentially full of so many planted windows and balconies, with room for so many fuchsias. Berlin bleibt Berlin, I guess. At least the city is still full of Schrebergärten colonies, sadly under increasing pressure from rapacious developers, with tons of other horticultural delights to make up for the omission. And, of course, there’s always a stroll Unter den Linden to take your mind off city streets and urban ways.


Iceland Slideshow - 142
Located in the North Atlantic between Europe and North America, Iceland hangs just below the Arctic Circle. However, it benefits from the warming effects of the North Atlantic Current off the Gulf Stream and it’s coastal climate is considered subpolar oceanic. It’s said that the Viking explorers who named the island over a thousand years ago should have called Iceland Greenland and Greenland Iceland. Because of its position so far north, this Nordic country has long, long summer days that lead to a luxuriant spurt of growth as its plants strive to make up for the lost hours of winter. Almost the summer solstice when we were there and the grass was indeed rich and green. But many trees, such as the charming dwarf birch (Betula nana) and many perennials seemed still to be playing catch-up in the sunshine.


The climate of intensely urban Hong Kong, located just south of the Tropic of Cancer, is classified as humid subtropical. Weather differences aside, similarly intensely urban New York City has to move over when it comes to sheer vertical mass. There are supposed to be over 7,650 skyscrapers in Hong Kong, making it the world’s record holder by far. More people live and work above the fourteenth floor in this city than anywhere else on earth. Surprisingly, unlike the seemingly endless conurbation that defines New York City, there’s also an awesome amount of green and open space close 'round the city. Most of its development is crammed into a narrow ribbon between hills and harbor or wedged into Kowloon. Despite the attention to the environment here, however, it’s still the last place one might think of bumping into fuchsias. But, hey, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Hong Kong

Malaysia is a land of many contrasts. It's a federated kingdom of thirteen states and three federal territories divided between Peninsular Malaysia, rising north from Singapore just off the Equator towards Thailand, and Eastern Malaysia across the South China Sea, stretching along the northern coast of the island of Borneo. It's also a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural home to Malays, Chinese and Indians, and a number of others. Malaysia has an amazingly high level of biodiversity, as well. Two-thirds of the country is covered by forests, some thought to be 130-million years old. No dinosaurs have been found lurking there, at least ones yet discovered, but there are so many other rare plants and animals it might take a long time to even notice a few wayward allosaurs.

This trip was to peninsular Malaysia. Most of its land is fairly low in elevation and the coastal plains ringing the country stretch inwards for over fifty miles. In fact, over 1,400 square miles (3,700 square km) of it are mangrove swamps. The climate is steamy, humid and decidedly tropical. There are not one, but two rainy seasons. One on the west coast and another on the the east and they overlap slightly. With dew points reaching almost 80° F (27° C) at times, it's hot! Not exactly the sort of climate fuchsias find comfortable.

However, elevations do exist. One extensive area in the State of Pahang is called the Cameron Highlands. Each of it's three main towns, strung together by a central highway that bisects the province, are at an elevation of over 3,900 feet (1,200 meters). The temperatures are very comfortable up there. In the daytime, they rarely rise above 77° F (25° C) and can fall to about 54° F (12° C) at night. Starting in the 1920's, under British colonial rule, the Highlands' gentle, mildly temperate climate attracted some development. Tea plantations and resorts, often built in a faux-Tudor style by homesick colonialists, were established.Today, its character is changing but, even with the advent of air conditioning, people are still drawn to the area, still seeking to escape the often oppressive humidity of the lowlands

So…Fuchsias in Malaysia? Let's see. Former British rule? Lush, green countryside in the mountains? Gardened hill stations established by homesick colonialists? Legends have it that there might just be a lost Shangri-La of fuchsias nestled in these hills. It's certainly worth mounting an expedition to see if there's any truth behind the tales. After all, if there's the slightest chance of finding any growing in steamy Malaysia, it's surely going to be in this benign, upland climate. On the Trail of the Fuchsia in the Cameron Highlands, then!


Even Singapore! Coming Soon.