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"Do you like it? It's may own new fuchsia variety."

What do loggers do after a hard day in the forest? Tom Wood (that's him above) of Shelton, Washington, goes home and breeds fuchsias. It's very easy, therapeutic, and can result in spectacular, one-of-a-kind plants. All you need is a little patience and an easily acquired modicom of botany (photographs 1 and 2 on the opposite page show the plant parts involved.

Fuchsias are good plants for novice breeders to start with because they're common, easy to cross, and have male (pollen) and female (seed) parts that are readily distinguished. And this month there are plenty of flowers to work with. What to breed for

First, decide what you like best about fuchsias, and aim to breed a plant that has more of it. Perhaps you'd like to breed the largest flowering white--one of Mr. wood's goal--or one that's smaller, more upright, or longer-blooming.

Start with parent fuchsias with the traits you like--the more pronounced, the better. Use each of the two parents as both pollen and seed plant and make the same cross many time. Every seed will produce a slightly different offspring.

You can see a wide selection of parent plants at fuchsia specialty nurseries. How to begin

Choose a flower on the pollen plant that has recently opened. When it's fertile, you'll see the pollen grain all over the anthers on the ends of the stamens. Choose a seed flower that has not quite opened (if it's open, it may already have been fertilized by an insect) and force the flower petals back. Tear off all its anthers so it won't self-pollinate, then fertilize it with an anther from the pollen plant. Then put a transparent plastic bag over it to keep out insects and let in light; punch tiny holes in the bag for ventilation, but be sure they're not big enough for insects to get through.

Label the cross, listing the seed parent first, pollen parent second.

After three days, take the bag off, repeat the cross, and put the bag back on. If the cross worked, you'll see the berry at the base of the flower start to grow rapidly. When flower petalls fall off, remove the bag and keep checking the berry. IT will take from 6 to 12 weeks to ripen, and knowing when that happens take some judgement.

When ready for harvest, the berry will be soft, almost mushy, and will bleed juice if you squeeze it lightly. If your're in doubt about whether it's ripe, wait. Once the berry starts to win, its overripe. Handling the seed

Pick the ripe berry, put it on a clean white paper towel, and cut it open with a sharp knife. You may need to quarter it to find the seeds: there will only be a few, perhaps not even five. Pick them out and sow them immediately in moist potting soil. Cover lightly--1/6 to 1/8 inch at most.

Put the sown container in a greenhouse or plastic bag, as shown at left. Keep it in a place that gets plenty of light, but not direct sun; gentle bottom heat from a heating cable helps.

Seed will germinate in 10 days to 6 months, depending on its origin. Early bloomers (in flower now) tend to germinate faster, late bloomers more slowly.

Transplant young seedlings into individual containers when they develop two sets of true leaves. Remember that fuchsias are deciduous, so leaves will drop naturally in fall. Protect them from winter frost; they'll start growing again next spring, and maybe flower next summer.

It's then that you decide which to keep and which to throw away. But Mr. Wood warns that even a bad fuchsia is hard to get rid of when you've bred it yourself.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:May 1, 1984
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