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The Secretary's Diary
July, August & September  2003

Alan Harris  (NBS Secretary 2002 - 2013)

Alan has been growing his begonias for cut-bloom exhibition.

9th. September.
If you have a little bottom heat, about 55 - 60oF will do and an ordinary 30W strip tube why not take some cuttings now to grow through the winter.  I did this last year and they did very well.  In fact my best bloom at Spalding was a cutting taken last September.  The basel cuttings such as this one are ideal, but keep them on the dry side until the spring.  Then pot them up and grow on as any other spring started tuber.
My June cuttings are now being flowered in an attempt to do my own crosses. There is a lot of pollen this year, probably caused by the plants being stressed by the heatwave.  Just goes to show that good comes from most adversity.

This
will be my last weekly update until the plants go down in November into December and I will then run a few more weeks to cover the process of preparing tubers for rest. In the mean time just keep watering gently and let nature run it's course.

31st. August.
The weather beat me!!
After 6 months of TLC I could cope with everything but the weather.
The picture shows a typical bloom edged by the heat and the fact that the blooms were open too soon.

Now all the blooms come off to give the plants chance to recover before dormancy.
They now have a couple of feeds of sulphate of potash at one spoonful to the gallon about two weeks apart and then they are watered gently only when they are fairly dry.


24th. August.
They look quite good but will they last?
This is a shot of the greenhouse with one week to go.  I think it unlikely that they will last but Tuesday is the day for making the decision so time will tell.


This
is a picture of my own raising Rachel Ann.
This weather seems to have suited it because several people have told me they have had good ones this year.
 

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17th. August.
Attention now moves to the main greenhouse which is housing what the weather has left of the plants for Birmingham.  They are better than the Spalding ones at the same stage, but badly need a cool two weeks to give them any chance of a long car ride.  Time will tell.

The first single blooms are showing stamens of pollen, this one is Rosalind.  Now through to the end of September is the best time for hybridising, so all I need now is to find a suitable female bloom.  I hope, and expect, that this will be a good year for pollen because with all the heat the cuttings will have been stressed and this when they produce pollen.

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13th. August
I won!
Amazingly after all the difficulties with the heat I managed to win the 6 cut blooms and Roy Mackey Memorial Bowl at the show this weekend.  The heat of the last few days brought on the blooms which were stopped to cover just this situation, and whilst they weren't the best I've ever had they were good enough.
There must be a moral about giving up in here somewhere.

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3rd. August.
Things look a little better than last week with the cooler weather, but now the forecast is for another heat wave I suspect all will be ruined.  This global warming seemed a good idea to start with, now I hate it!


This is not of the greenhouse, but a basket of Orange Pendula that was grown for the show at Bourn at the end of June and has just got better and better since. It hangs in full sun, yet seems to love it.  The more I grow begonias the less I seem to understand them!

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27th. July.
Things are not going well!!  The hot weather of the last two or three weeks, with temperatures if over 90oF, has taken it's toll.  The blooms are opening too quickly which means they are unlikely to reach the size needed for showing.  The picture shows this as I would expect them to be large oyster like buds just opening rather than what you see.  Never mind there is always next year!

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20th. July.
With three weeks to go to the East Anglian Show, I have been removing the side buds on most of my blooms today (Saturday 19th.). These side buds usually come in pairs and can be either female or sometimes male as well as the centre bud. They are removed on all plants to be shown.  They should be removed with great care and without touching the main central bud, which can be marked very easily.
This is also the stage at which I insert the collar behind the bloom. This is just a 9" circle cut from a ceiling tile with a slot to the middle.  The collars are put on early to ensure the back petals do not fold back and also to avoid any damage to the bloom.  You can either use the leaves for support or place a support behind the collar.  The collar is left on from now until the bloom is actually placed on the show board, but more about that later.

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13th. July.
Today (saturday 12th.) is 4 weeks before the East Anglian Area show at Spalding and it is time for me to take the buds and stop the plants.  The bud selected needs, for my greenhouse, to be as near 2" across as possible.
The pictures show before and after with the 2" bud being retained and the larger one removed.
The plant is also stopped, leaving one leaf above the bud. The theory is that the leaf above enables the plant to put more into the bloom.  Feeding now starts and the plants will be given strength Chempak No 4 at every watering for the next three weeks. This is approximately every 3 days.
All I need now is for this perishing hot weather to cool down.

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6th. July  Tarsonamid mite.
There appears to be a major outbreak of Tarsonamid mite on begonias up and down the country. The infection is evident on looking at the tip of the plant (picture 1) where it will appear stunted and will have brown or black streaks on the buds and tiny leaves. The stem (picture 2) looks corky, like apple scab. There is no spray available to the amateur to control this pest and the best thing is to dispose of affected stock.  Systemic insecticides have no effect, whatever the article in the Garden News claimed.  For those of you who have been lucky enough to avoid it, I strongly suggest that you do not take cuttings or plants from anybody unless you know they are free and were last year.  This is a very serious pest.   You have been warned!   I have been given an RHS document on the subject and will write this into a more comprehensive article in the Autumn Bulletin.

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 OTHER PAGES BY ALAN HARRIS
The Secretary's Diary

Cut-blooms
The Secretary's page on growing for exhibition.

The Secretary's Page

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