I live in Midsomer Norton, North
Somerset, which lies in the mendip hills in the south west of England.
I have been growing and showing begonias
for 9 years. Prior to that I grew chrysantheums for 22 years, where I
became the national champion for large early chrysantheums 4 times, and
won the Bentley trophy for ‘best exhibit’ in the national show twice.
Following redundancy from my office job
in shoe manufacturing some 10 years ago I started my own business
selling hanging baskets which meant I no longer had room for the
chrysanthemums. I hang my baskets in a 25’ x 50’ nethouse prior to
delivery which fortunately leaves room in my greenhouses for the
begonias from the middle of May.
In the 9 years I have been showing
begonias at the
National Show I have been 3rd,4th,2nd
and finally last year I came 1st. This was due to my having
produced the best flowers I have ever grown, in a season where it had
been difficult for most people with the weather we had. I hope to build
on the success of last year and look forward to competing in the
Thanks to the national-begonia website
you will be able to follow my year with begonias up to and during the
National Show with regular updates and pictures. Fingers crossed for
another good year!
What a summer! Sorry, non summer!
What with the rain and low night temperatures, down to 5ºC at
night, at the end of June and early July. Here we are last week of July
and I still haven’t got any flower on my runner beans.
I have moved most of my begonia’s intended for the national back into
the greenhouses and covered those left in the net-house with corolux
sheet to keep the rain off.
The timing of flowers for the national differs by variety but in general
most take 35 days from buds the size of a 50p piece to fully out with
me. Some varieties, i.e. Powder Puff and Mandalay, take 30-32 days and
others such as Roy Hartley and Tom Brownlee take 40-42 days. Timing is
something that you can only learn with experience and is unique to your
own personal situation.
I remove all buds, 50p size and above, 7 weeks from the show. At 5 weeks
from the show I select the bud that will be allowed to flower. Using 50p
size as a benchmark, I leave larger buds for the varieties that take
longer than 35 days and smaller buds for those varieties that take less.
A feed is given of mono ammonium
phosphate, 1oz to 4gallon of water, 4 weeks prior to show. Approximately
1 week later, the buds are protected from damage by using 8”
polystyrene plates and cotton wool. The plates have a slit cut in them
as shown in the first picture below.
I buy cheap pillows for cotton wool as they contain synthetic wool which
does not cling to leaves or buds as natural cotton wool would.
All plants have another feed of mono ammonium phosphate 2 weeks from the
Hopefully I shall have some quality blooms for the
National Show at Kingsheath, Birmingham on the 1st
Plates to protect blooms.
Blooms for the Portchester Show.
Plants for the National Show.
Begonias in the net house.
MAY - JUNE.
When begonia pots are full of roots,
that is roots just reaching the bottom of the pot NOT potbound, they are
moved into final pots for flowering. They are potted on two sizes
up, 4" into 6", 5" into 7", and so on.
The final mix is 5 parts soil from stack, 3 parts Vapagrow Container, 1
part Perlite, 1 part Vermiculite, and 1 part shredded beach leaves.
To each 8 gallons of mix, 6 ounces of John Innes Base and 1 ounce of
trace element frit are added.
Begonias final potted before the end of May are allowed to flower for the
Portchester Show on the 4th.& 5th. August.
Begonias that are final potted in in June are flowered for the
Show on 1st. & 2nd. September. Any pots not full of
root by the end of June are just grown for tuber.
Cuttings rooted in March and up to mid April
are now in 4" pots and should be ready for final potting by mid June.
Two thirds of the flowers taken to the National last year were from
similar early rooted cuttings.
The key to good plants and then ultimately
good flowers is control of the watering can. Do not water until
the pot is completely dry. If in doubt leave another day, but when
water is given it must be sufficient to completely soak the pot
Cuttings ready for 4"potting.
This year's seedling ready for 4" potting.
Plant ready for final potting.
Cuttings on the hotbed.
MARCH - APRIL
Now we are approaching the time when we are
going to move the tubers and cutting tubers into their first pots.
When the cutting tubers are about 2 inches high they are potted
on in 3½ inch pots. The compost mix I use in my pots is 2 parts
soil, 4 parts Vapagrow Container, 1 part Vermiculite and 1 part Perlite.
The reason for a higher amount of peat than would be the norm is that
cutting tubers need to be weened from the peat mix of the hotbed
before they are able to flourish in the John Innes type mix.
The larger tubers are moved from the hotbed when the shoots are
about an inch high, if they are left on any longer the root ball
will be too large for the ideal sized pot. The pot size to use is
the smallest that the root ball will comfortably fit into, this is
usually about 5 inches, but some of mine can be as large as 7 inches.
The compost mix I use on these larger tubers is 4 parts soil, 4 parts
Vapagrow Container, 1 part Vermiculite and 1 part Perlite with 4 ounces
of John Innes base to every 8 gallons of mix. These larger tubers
are more vigorous and are able to cope with the higher proportion of
soil to peat.
I have changed to Vapagrow Container instead of my usual peat
because I have had problems with old stock which has gone sour, and Vapagrow has the date of packing marked on the bag therefore giving you
the confidence of its freshness. Vapagrow do various grades of
compost with the container type being a favourite of mine with its
coarseness giving a nice open mix.
As soon as the weather is dry enough I will be making my soil
stack for 2008. My local garden centre saves all unsold turf for
me which I buy at a fraction of its normal cost. It is good
quality red Mendip loam, I even know the field it has been cut from!
The soil stack is made from layers of 12 rolls of turf covered
with 2 bags of well rotted cow manure and 1 bag of Beech leaves.
The stack is made 4 layers high and prior to its use the soil is broken
up with a rotavator.
Larger tubers on the hotbed.
Cutting and larger tubers in pots.
Rotavated soil stack.
JANUARY & FEBRUARY
All tubers and cutting tubers are started in 4
parts irish moss peat, 1 part perlite and 1 part vermiculite. Small
cutting tubers are started in cell trays and are moved to the hotbed as
soon as a shoot appears.
The main hotbed is 8’ by 6’ with a
300watt heating cable set to give 25ºC around the tubers. The hotbed is lined with
polythene and filled 3” deep with the peat mixture. 2x 400watt sodium
halide lamps are suspended about 4’ above the hotbed and are on from
06.00hrs until 20.00hrs every day.
Cuttings rooted prior to September last
year were left with no water from the end of November to die back in
their original pots until the beginning of January when the small tubers
were transplanted into the cell trays and put on a probagater. When they
start to shoot they are taken from the cells and moved to the hotbed.
Cuttings rooted in September and October
were left growing until the middle of January and then had their leaves
removed. By the end of January most of the compost was removed from
these plants, their roots were trimmed and they were put straight onto
Last years flowering plants had been
kept growing until the end of November at which time water was withheld.
The tubers were finally removed from their pots early January and were
put on the hotbed in the 2nd week of February. These tubers
will be flowered for the Portchester Show at the beginning of August
providing the hot weather doesn’t ruin them as happened last year!
The cutting tubers and any early cuttings rooted from
the larger tubers that produce multiple shoots will be flowered for the
National early September. All the flowers I showed at the National were
from this selection of plants.
View of the hotbed.
Stage at which cutting tubers are moved to the hotbed.
Close-up of late rooted cuttings on hotbed.
Cutting tubers in cell trays.