The photograph, probably taken during the last twenty years of the nineteenth century, shows James Lye standing alongside some of his fuchsia “pyramids”. It would be somewhat of a challenge for anyone to grow plants of this magnitude today! The plants shown are in the region of eight to ten feet tall and approximately four feet through at the base from which they tapered up to a point. They were literally covered with flowers from base to summit and perfectly symmetrical from all aspects.
Most fuchsia growers today cannot grow these massive plants, due to lack of growing space. Lye would take these large specimen plants to various shows, some of them being a considerable distance away. This was in the days before motor cars, when a horse and cart was the only transport available. Many of us today have difficulty in transporting our plants, (a great deal smaller than James Lye’s plants) to our respective Shows.
James Lye was born in Worcestershire in 1830. He was employed as head gardener to the Hon. Mrs Hay at Clyffe Hall, Market Lavington, Wiltshire.
His name appears for the first time in the Essig’s Check List in 1871. He apparently continued raising new varieties until 1897 (Gard. Chron. Vol. 22, 1897). Some of his raisings: Clipper, (awarded a Highly Commended by the R.H.S. in 1929). Beauty of Wilts; James Lye; Letty Lye; Betty Lye; Mrs Lye; Mrs J Bright; Mrs Huntley; James Huntley; Charming; Elegance; Beauty of Swanley and Mrs F Glass; Altogether he raised between fifty and sixty cultivars, a large percentage bearing the Lye ‘Hall Mark’ of a rich creamy white tube and sepals of a dense wax like texture, some of which are still in cultivation today.