(Old Berkeley Fuchsia) White sepals mottled with rosy pink and tipped in green seem to float over the deep rose petals of Fuchsia ‘Old Berkeley’. They hang from mid-green, veined foliage with toothed edges.
Hummingbirds love Old Berkeley, a mid-height, wide-spreading shrub. It thrives in partial shade but also grows well in full sun in coastal locations with moderate winters. Similar to all Fuchsias, it requires moist but not soggy soil and regular fertilizing. Old Berkeley is a great choice for hedges, but also grows well as an accent plant in a container.
One way that Fuchsias are categorized is by number of petals. Old Berkeley is a single, which means its flowers have 4 petals. In contrast, the famous yet elusive 1955 Fuchsia ‘Berkeley’ that was hybridized by Victor Reiter and his son, Victor Reiter, Jr., is a double. Double Fuchsias have 8 or more petals whereas semi-doubles have 5, 6, or 7. Except for the difference in petal numbers, the flowers of Berkeley and Old Berkeley appear much the same based on Fuchsia ‘Berkeley’ photos we’ve seen online.
Berkeley was the heart of international “Fuchsiamania” in the 1950s. The city’s role in popularization of the genus was due in part to gardeners forming The American Fuchsia Society there in 1929. A July 2006 article in Pacific Horticulture notes that in 1930 a delegation from the Society traveled to Europe — the early center of Fuchsia hybridization — to collect varieties to bring home. They divided the collection between Berkeley Horticultural Nursery and Berkeley’s University of California Botanical Garden.
Three decades later, a pesky South American mite destroyed many Fuchsias in California gardens. Horticulturists began the lengthy process of finding and hybridizing mite-resistant plants and are now succeeding in helping Fuchsias to abound again.
Fuchsia ‘Old Berkeley’ is what the International Code of Nomenclature refers to as a “designated” botanical name rather than a formally published or “accepted” name validated by ICN rules. One of the unknown facts about this plant is whether it possesses another long-lost accepted name. An important fact we do know is that Old Berkeley is a survivor of the mite wars, a resilient beauty that any Fuchsia lover would be proud to own.