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

Basil Billinger

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 SEPTEMBER
  
What a month in contrast to August. No measurable rain and it was the fifth driest since records began in 1881 in this area. The sun finally showed itself with a vengeance. Summer had finally arrived albeit a few months late. What barbecue summer?
  


A

B

C

D

(A)  This is my bespoke lean-to at the rear of the main greenhouse. It’s a real boon for me making maximum use of limited space. The cutting tubers have now been moved some time ago from the greenhouse and there they will remain until early October. I don’t pot on as some do but keep them in 3½” pots. This is a combination of space and also if they are given a half strength feed every few weeks they still, generally, make good sized tubers. To the rear you can just make out a new water butt, my fifth, that has kept the greenhouse self sufficient in water. 
(B)  The first weekend saw the National Show at Birmingham. Made our usual visit and took along Wally Lloyd from Taunton for his first visit. Always good to meet old friends and put faces to names which is one of the attractions of the show. Disappointed, as a pot grower with the small number on display. Blooms were to their expected number. There were two highlights for me. This basket of Isabella which was probably the best I had ever seen although it had probably never experienced the elements. The other was a superb pot of the multiflora, La-Madelon. Hopefully I may get a chance to grow this myself next year
(C)  Over the same weekend was the Amateur Gardening Show at the Bath and West Show Ground at Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Gary Dando, Area Representative for the South West put on the longest display he had ever staged, some 25 foot. It was up against some very stiff professional competition but Gary triumphed with a large gold award and best in show. A feature this year was the multiflora and foliage plants incorporated into the stand. It created much interest.
(D)  Towards the end of the month I gave all the outside baskets and containers their second dose of Provado Vine Weevil Killer². This is essential in my patch as the “little devils” are rampant. Last year Tony Willoughby didn’t treat and lost, he estimates, around £1K of tubers. It may seem an expensive solution but it does seem to do the trick and saves in the long term. I don’t bother with the greenhouse plants as I hope one earlier dose, plus mothballs around the floor and benches and good husbandry does the trick. Time will tell.

   This is a shorter and truncated diary this time due to the problems that we have had with our website server. I intend to expand on some items later with specific articles on matters of general interest such as John Chiswell’s more unusual blooms, including some from Australia, Gary Dando’s foliage plants that were outstanding and of course some of the shows mentioned.

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 AUGUST
  
Rarely have I experienced a summer month with so many weather variations. A real mixed bag indeed which has contributed, in my opinion, to the best begonia growing weather for some years, in the greenhouse anyway. Not sure about outside as some baskets have taken a real hammering. That said, this is month to get out and about and see what is going on outside your own domain.  


A

B

C

D

(A)  Saturday 2nd August. What a hectic day. Our own local town show takes place over this weekend. Rushed to get in some entries, not begonias I may add, before the arrival of Cliff Parker from Penarth, South Wales. I have always wanted to attend the South Coast Show but never thought I would ever make it. Cliff was going and volunteered to give me a lift, even picking me up from home. Horrendous journey but got there late afternoon. The first “stand alone” begonia show ever attended. The hall looked magnificent. It was great to meet people I had only spoken to or heard of. Saw Dave Coates last year at Bideford so I was delighted to meet our webmaster Brian Simmons at long last after a number of years exchanging information and news. Now I know who I send my ramblings to. Show was great. Real quality exhibits. Had been forewarned about the cakes. No idle chit chat. The bread pudding was the best I have ever tasted. Well done all concerned. Arrived home tired but well pleased. 
(B) 
The following weekend, on the Sunday, was our own South West Show at Bideford at which Dave Coates was judging. It is an “add on” to the Bideford Cactus and Pot Plant show that was inaugurated over forty years ago. Entries were down all round, including begonias, but it is fair to say that with our participation it gives a splash of colour to the show. None of this would be possible without the sterling work of Mike Avis (pictured) who runs the whole event, including the begonias, which have been incorporated for some ten years. It is no idle talk to say that without Mike there would not be a Bideford Show. What a way to spend your 65th birthday but I feel he would not have it any other way. 
(C) 
Just before the final week end of the month we visited a group of growers in the Mendips and included Blackmore and Langdon on our trip. Here’s John Chiswell along with Tony Willoughby and Don Dewey viewing blooms that may, or may not, get to the National in a weeks time. This is just a selection so John should have plenty to choose from. 
(D)  The Clevedon Show, North Somerset, takes place over the Bank Holiday weekend. What has this picture to do with the show? Well, it’s my greenhouse after sixteen plants have been taken out to supplement the exhibition stand that Tony Willoughby enters. This is really the number of plants that I should grow but temptation always gets the better of me. Tony, at long last, got top award and Lakin Earl and I kept the begonia section going.

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January & February          March          April & May          June & July          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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