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Begonia Semperflorens
Brian Simmons
Probably the most commercially available and common of all begonias.
These fibrous rooted favourites come in white, pink & red with green or dark foliage.  They thrive in sunshine or semi shade.

We have been growing semperflorens for as many years as the tuberous doubles. (Nearly 40 years).
A glass file from Benary contains 1,000 seed and we invariably achieve at least 95% germination.

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The compost that I am using is Scotts Levington Professional F1 (soilless), very lightly firmed and the surface levelled.  Once the seed is sown it will not be covered.
Water is soaked up from below in a bowl of tepid water until the surface of the compost has become moist. To achieve this without saturating the compost it may be necessary to dunk the tray more than once just for about a minute each time.

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Mid January
I start the seed in a small electric propagator in the kitchen (courtesy of the wife).
The tiny seed is distributed onto the surface and not covered.
Tray size 9"23cm x 6⅝"170cm. About 500 seeds per tray.
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Early February
Germination usually takes 10 to 14 days, sometimes as quick as 8 days,after this more light is required and the propagator is transferred to the conservatory.  As the seedlings grow the lid is progressively removed whenever conditions allow and an occasional light spray of room temperature water is given.

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Early March
About 6 weeks after the seed has been sown it is ready for transplanting.
This delicate and fiddly operation is done by the wife, she manages to retain even the smallest seedlings and even these grow to become flowering plants, though later in the season.  some find their way onto our society stand.

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It is important not to damage the root system and to achieve this we try to ensure that the compost is "just right" for the operation.  Too wet and the roots will tear, too dry and the compost will fall away. 
The new compost is peat based general purpose.

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Last  year we managed about 980 transplants, but some years as many as the full 1,000 have been achieved.  The seedlings are set out at 80 per tray.  Moisture is applied by soaking from beneath, but the trays are not saturated, just enough to reach the surface is sufficient.

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Trays are now transferred to the greenhouse which is unheated except for the warmth generated by two heated sandbeds, home at this time of year to my tuberous doubles.
Initially clear covers are placed on the the trays and on cold nights newspaper on the covers, but only very rarely have I used an additional greenhouse heater.

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Early April
The seedlings are ready for another transplant.  This will be into pots for our own use and punnets for friends and donating to charity. Those transplanted into pots will, once established,  have their growing tips pinched out to produce a more bushy plant, but this will of course delay flowering.

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Early May
Punneted plants are ready to go into borders (remembering that we are on the south coast of England).  We have found that five plants fit very conveniently into a P5 punnet, this spares the expense of pots and saves room in the greenhouse at a time in the season when every inch of space is at a premium.

July
Summer and the plants are in full flower fronting a bed of tuberous double seedlings.
In addition to the stunning display and a continuous succession of blooms semperflorens require virtually no attention.

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