A year in the life of an Amateur Begonia Grower
Compared with last month this has been very much laid back as far
as begonias are concerned. Waiting for things to happen, or rather
spring into life. The weather has varied, from winter to spring, with a
couple of quite hard frosts.
(A) I always
heat treat my mature tubers and this was done on the 1st. Here they are
prior to immersing in water. Again, I use an old favourite of mine, cat
litter trays, not drilled I may add. The labels are attached to the
tubers by rubber bands and are hopefully positioned above the water
level otherwise they could be wiped clean. Do not compromise and save
rubbers bands. Store in a cool place, not the greenhouse, as they can
deteriorate and become detached and then you have identification
problems. I have been there!
The tubers are then immersed in hot water with 10% Domestos.
Water temperature should ideally be around 115ºF. I use the hottest
water from the tap and this is about correct. The problem is maintaining
this temperature for 20 minutes. I achieve this, or or just about, by
covering with polystyrene block. The liquid is then poured off, but not
wasted. Use it on paths to kill moss. The tubers are then immersed for a
further 20 minutes in cold water, dried off, and then they are ready for
planting as and when.
(B) B. A selection of my main tubers just prior to covering
with peat and Perlite before placing in propagators. I start them off in
the first week of March with the balance, normally the larger tubers,
towards the end of March or early April. This gives a long season of
flowers for the greenhouse although I aim for the first to be in bloom
for early August. Any of the cuttings tubers that I retained should
flower earlier of course.
(C) Dropped in to see Blackmore and Langdon at Pensford in the
middle of the month. Don’t you wish that your plants were as advanced as
these? Possibly not. These are grown in controlled heat and will
hopefully be ready for showing at the RHS Spring Malvern Show or
certainly for Chelsea a few weeks later. Incidentally, B&L’s sale
weekend is on the 8th to10th May this year and I hope that a number of
members take advantage and come along.
When we arrived, B&L were busy loading a wooden crate 6’ x 4’ x 4’
full of begonia tubers, on to a lorry for transportation to the White
Flower Farm, Connecticut, USA. Not a bad order. Talking to Nick Langdon
he tells me that some 50% of their business is now exports.
(D) Here’s a selection of B&L’s cutting
tubers being brought along. These will form the basis of their stock for
sale in later years. They aim for around 1,000 of any one variety
before putting it on general sale. Newer varieties have to be ordered
early for the following year and are in shorter supply, naturally.
(E) Propagators all up and running. I tend to keep the covers
on until all danger of frost has passed. Just as well as on a couple of
nights this month the temperature has plunged and there has been a
severe frost. By the time you see this all covers will have been removed
together with the Parwin heater. Yet another year the heater has not
been utilised so that cuts down on costs. It may come into its own if we
have a hot summer. We will see.
(F) These are some the
plants grown from the pea sized cutting tubers put in at the end of
January. I pot on in 3½” half pots as starters. The roots spread better
in half pots, one of the first tips given to me in the early days of
growing. The compost is Bulrush Multi Purpose with a liberal quantity of
Perlite. The most significant growth is naturally on the varieties that
started first. I am particularly please with the Beverley B’s as I have
been able to pass on spares to members. Some of the pots will be coming
up for re-potting in the near future.
Begonias have taken very much a back seat this month as
daffodils, being grown for the first time, have taken over. These will
soon be moved out and the whole greenhouse will be devoted, once again,
January & February April & May
June & July
August & September
October & November
BY BASIL BILLINGER
Begonias at the Rose & Sweet Pea Show
A Spring Visit to
the South West Area Representative's Greenhouses
trail through the Mendips
A Spring Visit to B&L 2007
B&L March 2008
B&L May 2008
B&L Chelsea Preview May