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 Diary  2009
A year in the life of an Amateur Begonia Grower

Basil Billinger

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 MARCH
  
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


B

C

(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 115F. 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. Dont 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&Ls 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


E

F

(D)  Heres a selection of B&Ls 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 3 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 Bs 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, to begonias.

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   January & February          April & May          June & July
August & September     October & November     December

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OTHER PAGES BY BASIL BILLINGER
Begonias at the Rose & Sweet Pea Show
A Spring Visit to the South West Area Representative's Greenhouses          Garden Begonias
Begonia trail through the Mendips          October Begonias
A Spring Visit to B&L 2007          B&L March 2008          B&L May 2008          B&L Chelsea Preview May 2009 

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