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Growers in the Spotlight - North & South of the Border

Michael Richardson

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   PHIL CHAMPION
   National Begonia Society  
 National Society Champion 12 Cut Blooms 1016
   Scottish Begonia Society     British Begonia Champion   12 Cut Blooms 2016
   Southport Flower Show       NBS 12 Cut Bloom Champion 2016

   Visited Sunday 25th. June 2017 

Not only was the above a fantastic achievement on its own but is even greater when you consider he did not move to his new home until early 2016 or start his tubers until April 2016.

Sunday 25th June
Before I start this article I will say that Mr. Champion ran from a camera quicker than me, which is unless it’s to be photographed by one of his winning boards – so I have had to use “cheap models” for the day as in Terry Talker, Bob Bryce and Dodgy Dave Weatherby. 

Propagating greenhouse -
The picture to the left shows his new propagating Greenhouse (this is Ian Donaldson's old propagating greenhouse) that Phil acquired towards the end of 2016 and is 20ft x 10ft.
Now due to certain greenhouse shading products being “diluted” or altered so they are not as effective as they use to be, Phil has used Titanium Dioxide (ordered on the internet) to mix with water and painted it on to shade his propagating greenhouse. 

Running down both sides of the greenhouse are x2 approx. 20ft x 4ft sided benches as you can see by the picture to the right (and yes that’s Dave Weatherby checking out his varieties)!  Now Phil has done away with the traditional hotbox / propagator unit and installed “heated blankets” as you can see by the picture to the left. He has placed a thick layer of polystyrene on the base on the bench to prevent heat lose, then laid the heated blanket on top of it with a sheet over it to prevent it getting dirty or knocked about.

His tubers are started in pots containing either Peat or Levington M2 Pot & Bedding Compost and just sat on the electric blanket on the benches.

Bench on the left hand side -
The picture to the right are believe it or not this year's cuttings and could produce a flower good enough to show, I asked Dave to hold them up so you get some idea / scale to how good they looked.

The picture to left shows some of Phil's seedlings that are a little slow growing so he has left them here to help get them going.

To finish off this bench he had some rooted cuttings that had been potted up.
Underneath the bench on the left hand side running the length of it is a shelf, on it you can see he has 9 small and 8 large propagators all filled with cuttings. Under this shelf on the floor are another 9 small propagators as you can see by the picture to the right.
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*Phil mixes peat and sand and fills a tray with this mixture and just “plants” his cuttings into it in as you can see by the picture to the left – I must admit I thought he kept them a little too dry but it defiantly works for him.

 

Bench on the right hand side -

The bench running down the right hand side carries all this year’s potted up cuttings as per the picture to the right shows. Underneath the bench towards the bottom end of the greenhouse Phil has started to collect canes and rexes as per the photograph  to the left shows.
 

In front of his propagating greenhouse he has made a patio shaded area to “house” some pendula varieties as you can see by the picture to the right.


As per the picture to the left, running down the outside of the right hand side of his propagating greenhouse is another shaded area where he puts his plants that are not up to scratch for what he wants.


 

Main greenhouse
The picture right shows his main greenhouse. a cavernous 30ft x 20ft. For ventilation the entire length of the greenhouse roof opens up.


Phil uses an expensive type of shading to protect his plants from the sun as you can see by the pictures  to the left. Terry Tasker and Dave Weatherby have looked it up on the internet and priced a roll of this material with the idea to shade their greenhouses with it as well.



The picture to the left shows you the jaw dropping sight as you walk into his main greenhouse.

 


Plants on the first staging bench aimed for the Welsh Show


 


Plants on the second staging bench aimed for the Southport Show


 

 


His plants on the third and fourth staging bench aimed for the National Show at Shrewsbury.


 


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  Plants for Dundee

 

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Now Phil placed a condition on our visit if we brought Mr. Dodgy “Plant hunter” Weatherby and that was to ensure that this new variety raised and named “Lo La” by Bob Robertson had to be guarded by x2 “plant bodyguards” every time he went into Phil's main greenhouse as you can see by the picture to the left – otherwise a leaf of side shoot would have disappeared as if by magic.

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Phil held nothing back and even wrote his special Johns Innes No2 mix down on a piece of paper and gave it to Dave – and like me he uses a cement mixer to the right to mix his “composts” in – the only problem with using a mixer is that if the mix is left in too long then the course peat will quickly turn to a light / medium peat as its broken down by the mixer.


You can also see by the picture to the left he had a number of storage drums under a section of staging and after some inquisitive questioning from Terry Talker and Dodgy Dave, Phil kindly took the lid off each drum and showed us the contents – just to show he never had any “special” ingredients that he adds to his compost.
 

         some monstrous developing buds

Additional happenings on this visit -

Before we left, I managed to get this picture showing just some of Bob, Terrys and Dodgys ill-gotten gains - Rumor has it that Mr. Weatherby has applied to have the National Collection of Double Tuberous Begonias – as there are not many varieties left that he does not own now.
Caught Terry having cuttings away from the front of Phils cottage as shown on the picture to the right, you can tell he has been spending too much time around Dave Weatherby, it will not be long before this affliction spreads to Mr. Bryce as well as it seems its now contagious…..

 

Now one of the funniest moments of the day was when Phil's wife asked Mr. Bryce if he would take out a brew to Terry's son (me) – this was down to some earlier banter whilst we were having something to eat.
Needless to say this led to a lot of laughter and jokes that lasted the rest of the day – including me asking my “dad” if he wanted me to phone “mum” and give her an eta for our arrival back home…. 

                                                 I would like to thank Phil for allowing me to write this article.

 


National Show


Ayr


Southport

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