Tag Archives: cloud forest

Return of the Golden Fuchsia

10 Aug

photo: James Gaither

Few plants garner the cult following of Deppea splendens, the magnificent cloud forest plant that’s probably launched more insane bidding wars on ebay than any other. It’s almost iridescent leaves & delicate gold & maroon blooms suspended daintily from filament-like pedicels make a late Summer & Fall display that knocks some serious socks off.

Discovered & named in 1972 & the original collection was made by Dr. Dennis Breedlove in 1981 near Chiapas, Mexico. On a return visit in 1986, the canyon where the original plants were discovered had been razed & converted to farmland. There was no trace. It’s now presumed to be extinct in the wild, though there is more than one clone in cultivation today. Ours came from Strybing Botanical Arboretum in San Francisco, where the plant thrives. Those cool, foggy Summers are the perfect thing for a cloud forest dwelling rarity & keep its leaves lush & emerald green.

For many years the availability of this exquisitely rare plant has been scarce, but this year we have enough to not only offer it, but FEATURE it in our brand new and super pretty Summer catalog! Making a place for the plant in your own home garden can’t bring back what has been lost in the wild, but it can help encourage awareness of rare & endangered plants & ethics aside: aesthetics, folks – this plant is mad pretty. Who wouldn’t want to have a specimen of such copious beauty close to their domicile? Not all endangered plants are pretty, you know. I won’t go naming names because that’s just not nice.

What you need to know in order to get your Deppea to grow? Keep it out of the hot hot heat, please – your plant will sulk, drop leaves & generally pitch a fit. It can take a fair amount of direct light, but with too much sizzle you’ll find yourself the accidental killer of an extinct plant (which, really – no pressure. You’re not necessarily responsibly for the development that got it into this rarified position. Don’t fret.) Too much cold is a sure fire killer, too. Protect from all but the lightest frosts, or bring the plant in under cover.

Our plants in the nursery are currently growing in 10-20 gallon pots and are doin’ fiiiine. Heavy soils are ill advised, so amend for drainage & mound the soil up a leeetle bit. Average water should suffice, or regular if you’re somewhere with extremes less gentle than those of the Bay Area. This plant is a challenge. That much is true. It’s also more & more rewarding as it thrives & ages, with ever-heavier clusters of flowers & a beautiful form. When well grown, it can eventually be shaped to look like an elegant multi-branched tree. In cultivation it will achieve around 8+ feet in height (though it’s often much shorter) & stays more tall than wide – 4’ or so, but pruning will ultimately determine the plant’s footprint.

photo: Kelly Kilpatrick

It’s been yearrrs since we’ve been able to offer this plant. Last year we had a teensy crop and they all got scooped up fast. This time we’re sure we have a high enough count to really spread the joy of Deppeas to everyone far and wide (well, as far and wide as is appropriate to the plant’s needs.)

P.S. (Once more with feeling) have you seen the shiny new Summer catalog? It’s super swell!