The National Begonia Society


2015 Diary

Michael Richardson

Episode 28  -  Into December

Saturday 7th November -
   The problem I have when I take cuttings early in the year is by the time I get into November they start to go down. The leaves and then stems start falling off x1 segment at a time or on some varieties the stem just comes off in one piece as you see by the picture on the left.
Most of my cuttings are now showing signs of tuber production by either appearing above the soil or by pushing the pot out of shape (see picture to the right).

Thursday 12th November -
   I had to have a day off work today, but it did mean I could spend some time in my main greenhouse as the stems were falling off all over the place.
    1. I went round all my plants and took off or picked up any fallen stems or leafs.
   2. Then I went through all the plants whose stems had come away from the tuber and took them out of their pots and gently “cleaned” most of the medium away from around the tuber. I was being very careful not to take too much medium off so as not to “skin” any of them - this means taking the skin off the tuber as it has on the picture left.
 As the old Blue Peter saying goes “here is one I prepared early”, yep no matter how hard I try I always “skin” at least one tuber at this time of year.
3. Once I have the bulk of my medium off the tuber I just place the tuber and label back in the pot and stack them up, and leave them for another x2 weeks to dry off properly.
4. I then moved my cuttings that I had on the floor stored in trays to the first tier of the staging, and watered those that needed a drink.
Finally I loaded all the bags of medium that I took off my tubers in the boot of the car as well as all the vegetative debris and took it all to the local tip.

Saturday 14th November –
All the top growth on my following outdoor varieties have more or less fallen off –
    • Madame Richard Galle
    • Bon Bon Sherbet
    • White Flamboyant
So I took the tubers out of either the tubs or ground and got most of the “medium” from around the tuber then put them in trays and left them stacked in a greenhouse to dry in their own time.
The following varieties have still a lot of top growth on so they have been left outside for a little longer –
    • Red Flamboyant
    • Fire Dance
    • Glowing Embers
    • Buffy

Then the unexpected happened, I received a phone call from Dave Weatherby saying he was in the area and was it ok to visit. An hour later he arrived at my humble abode, not being used to visitors I had to brush up quickly on my hosting skills, this included x2 brews and a “tour” of my greenhouses in the rain, then back to the house for a chat.

Caledonian Tours 2015 number 9 – Scottish Begonia Society AGM – and last trip north for 2015.
Sunday 15th November
Well it was Mr Bryce’s turn to apply for an authorised absence day (unpaid of course) so that he and his good wife could go and visit brother Alan and Barbara Bryce in Spain. That left myself and Vincent a man down, so up stepped Dave Wetherby to fill the breech.
Now Robert Nelson is a member of the Scottish Begonia Society committee and had to be on time for this committee meeting as it also led into their AGM, so he asked us to arrive a little earlier. That meant I had to leave at 0645am to collect Vincent at 0715 then over to Chorley to pick up Dave Wetherby for 0745. Then it was on the M61 to the M6 then straight up to the M74 and Carluke and Robert Nelsons.
I think we hit the tail end of Hurricane Barney, the rain battered it down on the way up. Every river we drove over or drove past we noticed the waters were well above the river banks, like the rivers Ribble, Keer, Lune, Eamont, Eden, Esk, Sark, Annon and the Clyde.
We arrived at Roberts just after 1030, and found him mooching about in his garden.
All his plants in his main greenhouse were out of their pots and the tubers were now laying with their labels in his propagators.
His middle greenhouse was full of cuttings and they looked really well (as you see from the picture on the left), and when you “waggled” the stem they felt as though they were solid in the pot – a good sign of tuber production, as far as I am concerned.
As you can see by the picture to the right in his propagating greenhouse he has “customised” his hotbox units so they had a higher side and now a solid lid to turn them into large propagating units.
At this point we left the greenhouse and the cold outside and went into the warmth of his kitchen where Margaret had made bacon rolls and a pot of tea, so the conversations that followed touched on most subjects whilst we filled our bellies.
The time flew past and in what seemed like no time at all it was noon and we had to bid farewell to Margaret probably for the last time this year and set off to Airdrie and the meeting.
   On arrival at Springfield Community Centre in Airdrie Robert met up with the committee and as they got down to business the 3 amigo’s found a table and sat and chatted.
When the committee meeting finished other members of Scottish Begonia Society started to arrive and the hall quickly filled up, and it was not long after that the President of the Scottish Begonia Society Samuel Kennedy dropped the gavel to start the commencement of the AGM.
Next came the shock of all shocks, when it was time for the re-election of the committee members Samuel Kennedy (see picture to the left) took his presidents badge off and placed it on the table in front of him and announced he would not be standing for re-election….. A deadly silence fell on the assembled masses, before he explained that after 14 years he felt it was time for the Society to move into a different direction and he would not be dropping onto the committee either. Another piece of bad news was read out with regards to James Allan the Vice President who was retiring from his position due to health issues.
That meant the members present had to elect a new President and Vice President, and to cut a long story short Robert Nelson was elected the new President of the Scottish Begonia Society and George Thompson was elected the Vice President. Elizabeth Kennedy was re-elected as Treasurer, Peter Matthews was re-elected as the Secretary, David Nimmo took up the position as Show Manager and then the rest of the committee were elected.
The rest of AGM agenda went without any more shocks and before we knew it, it was 1700hrs and time to clear the hall.
After we bid are farewells we started off on the long journey back home in the dark and rain. We got Dave Weatherby back to his car safely for approx. 1945hrs than Vincent back to his home in Langho for about 2020hrs and I rolled through the front door just before 2100hrs. Not long after that I was in bed as I was up for work the following morning at 5am.
The last word on the day, I just want to congratulate Robert Nelson and George Thompson and wish them all the best on their new challenging role.

Tuesday 17th November –
 With the day length shortening fast now, means that when I get home from work for 1500hrs it's dark for 1600hrs. So that gives me about an hour’s window as x2 of my greenhouses have no lights in but my big greenhouse has x2 big strip lights.
So tonight I went through all my plants and cuttings in my second greenhouse doing exactly the same as I did in my big greenhouse a week ago.

Friday 20th November –
 We had heavy rain that turned into sleet then snow, by 9pm the cars on the avenue were white and the temperature had dropped to 2°c.

Saturday 21st November –
 I got up for work at 5am and found it still at 2°c, I knew that I would have to sort my plants out when I got home, as the weather forecasts had predicted heavy frosts and I did not want to tempt fate of frosting my tubers. Early afternoon and with time and room against me I had to get a move on –
   1. I sorted out and consolidated up my cuttings in my back hotbox and with the room created I moved all my cuttings from my big hotbox on the left to the back one.
   2. In the empty hotbox I relayed some clean plastic sheets to cover the sand.
   3. I then went through all my tubers that I had taken out of their pots and left in my big greenhouse on Thursday 12th October and brushed them gently to remove nearly all any remaining medium from them.
   4. I then took them all into my propagating greenhouse and sat each tuber on its label in the hotbox as you can see by the picture on the left.

Sunday 22nd November –
I took out another wave of tubers from their pots today and removed most of the medium off them. These are the ones whose stems had come off during the week.
I put the tuber and its label back into its pot and stacked them on the floor of my propagating greenhouse as it has a heater in to keep it frost free as you can see by the picture to the right.

Tuesday 24th November –
 I managed to get all my Glowing Embers tubers out of their troughs just before it went dark, the frost that we had the other morning had “knocked” the tops back. They were plug plants that I bought at the start of the year, and they looked to have produced very good cutting tubers.

Saturday 28th November –
 Today I went through all the tubers that I had just left in their pots stacked on the floor of my propagating greenhouse to dry out a week ago. I gave them another brush off and placed them into the hotbox with the others I had done to finish the drying process in readiness for de-scabbing.
Then I got the next wave of plants whose stems had fallen off the plant and gently teased most the medium from around the tuber. Then I gently brushed any medium from off the top of the tuber and placed the tuber and label back in their pot, finally stacking these pots on the floor of my propagating greenhouse to dry out a little more (see picture to the left).

Sunday 30th November –
 All the tubers that I took out of their pots on Thursday 12th November have had approx. 19 days to finish ripening off, so today I went through the lot and –
    • De-scabbed them the “normal way as you can see by the pictures to the left (before) and right (after).
• Then I dried the “wound” by gently dapping it with some kitchen roll.
• To finish I lightly dusted them with some Sublime of Sulphur
Now I have a terrible habit of “over checking” a tuber, by that I mean –
    • If I see a scab that I have missed from the previous year I take it off and dry and dust the wound.
    • If I see very rough or scaly skin (see picture to the right) I just give a little scrape to see if the skin is “sound”.
    • If there is rot in a tuber you will definitely hear and feel it when brushing your tuber. If I find any “brown” rot then I will examine how bad it has took hold, then that will determine whether it’s worth saving or not.

Saturday 5th December –
 Took another wave of tubers out of their pots this afternoon then stacked them up on the floor of my propagating greenhouse to dry out some more.
After checking the cuttings in my main greenhouse for fallen leaves and stem segments, I found about dozen stems just came away from below soil level as you can see from the picture on the left. So these pots with the new cutting tubers in were moved into my propagating greenhouse to carry on developing.

Sunday 6th December –
 Today I started by de-scabbing the 2nd wave of tubers that had been placed on the Hotbox last weekend to dry out a little more (see pictures to left and right).
Then all the tubers that I took out of their pots last weekend and stacked on the propagating greenhouse floor to dry out a little more, I gave them another brushing off and sat them on the Hotbox to dry and ripen some more.
finally I went through all my cuttings in the propagating greenhouse checking for any fallen “debris”.

Contentious Corner
Issue 16

One thing I have noticed this year is the difference in toughness with regards the skin of my tubers depending on the medium they have been grown in –
• Multipurpose & Multipurpose mixes – the tubers skin is a lot softer and can be “skinned” very easily
• Johns Innes No2 – the tubers skin is a lot “harder” and not as easy to “skin” and is a lot more forgiving towards this heavy handed growers like myself.

Well that’s it, for this year – I just want to wish everyone Happy Christmas and a Great New Year.

Oh one last thing, have you ever wondered how Father Christmas delivers all the presents in time - He hires Ian Donaldson to “drive” his sled.

                        Until next time….

That concludes Michael's excellent and comprehensive Diary for this year,
 I hope you have found it as interesting and enlightening as I have.
He will be back in 2016, inviting us into his greenhouse
 and on journeys north and south of the border - Editor


Michael Richardson's Diaries 2015