Published: 00:01, 26 August 2012
It is a river famous for its pure waters, its Roman history and freshwater crayfish.
Now the River Darent in Dartford can boast a river bank that's home to the world’s largest collection of fuchsias.
More than 6,400 different species ranging from flamboyant modern fuchsias to tiny groundhugging versions and ancient triphyla-like elongated orange bells are grown in a series of greenhouses at Sutton-at-Hone.
They belong to George Puddefoot, 78, and his wife Nellie, 75.
They run the Riverside Nursery behind a small industrial estate. It lies beside the river and freshwater springs which once supported watercress meadows.
They don’t have examples of every fuchsia but what they have is a lot more than anyone else.
Despite his age, George still regularly lectures, breed, exhibits and judges new species of fuchsia.
He also gives lots of time to enthusiasts and wanna-be growers to know how to grow the plants.
“When Nellie and I got married my father and my uncle, Charles Turner, who was a large grower in this area, said we had to take over the fuchsia collection my father had built.
“At that time there were about 600 species, and I built a 100-foot greenhouse at Hextable to house them.”
As their family grew (they had four children) Nellie wanted a hobby and has become a national expert on the plants.
She now runs their website, answering hundreds of emails and servicing orders for single plants up to hundreds of a single species.
Originally it was a hobby, but when George retired from Littlebrook power station he had a large severance package that enabled him to build new greenhouses at Sutton-at-Hone.
By then the idea of selling fuchsias rather than giving away rooted cuttings and small clippings to friends and visitors had caught on.
George plans to build new greenhouses next year where a team of volunteers will continue to grow the two major collections for future generations to enjoy.
They already export plants to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa and have a standing invitation to go to China to lecture there.
But it is not just fuchsias that claim space in the Puddefoots' collection - the nursery is also home to one of the country’s largest collections of pelargoniums - geraniums.
The Puddefoots have turned down invitations to be the holders of the national collection of that species of flower, even though they have regularly stalked wild geraniums in the wilder parts of South Africa.
George explained: “I inherited them, and have about 1,500 different species. I like them - but I love fuchsias.”