Begonia Trail Through The Mendips - July 2007
Basil Billinger

   Receiving a telephone from a member of the affectingly named “Radstock Mafia” that an informal get together was being suddenly convened how could I refuse to attend?  Accompanied by my neighbour Tony Willoughby (right) from Nailsea we were joined by Lakin Earl (third from left) from Highbridge, Somerset, on Monday 9th July.
   The first couple of hours were spent with Lakin in our own greenhouses and gardens picking up many useful tips as usual.  Overall the verdict seems to be “getting better but could still get better”!  We both picked up numerous tips from Lakin’s 40 years experience in not only growing begonias, but horticulture generally.
   Then it was off to Midsomer Norton as a first stop.  However, while journeying through the Chew Valley, we decided to take a detour and call in and see Blackmore & Langdon at Pensford, Somerset.  We met up with both John and Rosemary Langdon and congratulated them on their silver gilt at Chelsea.  With constraints on time and staffing B&L now only exhibit at Chelsea and 4 other major RHS shows.

   The journey continued, not as we thought, to Midsomer Norton, but to Chilcompton a mile or so away.  There we met up with John Chiswell (second from left), National Blooms Champion last year, who had already been joined by Don Dewey (left) from Little Stoke, Bristol. JC has facilities for an extensive shade house at Chilcompton.  There were many plants but no blooms – yet.  How many John?  A quick count on the night revealed 720.  Of these 100 plus were seedlings, a
further 60 are being grown for the South Coast Show at Porchester 4thand 5th August, with the rest for The National Show.
It was interesting to note that this year JC has used natural predators (Amblyseius cucumeris) as a precaution against the dreaded mite.  Also, there was no trace of any current cutting tubers.  When questioned, JC told us these are now propagated at his home.  How many does he take?  John’s reply was “125 today”!   Keep up to date with JC’s way of growing by viewing The Champions Diary 2007 on this web site.
Then it was down the hill to meet up with Gary Dando. Gary has been growing begonias for some 12 years and prior to that he grew chrysanthemums as did JC.  In fact he is still Chairman of the North Somerset Dahlia and Chrysanthemum Society, where he is a also a judge.
   Gary grows single stem plants that he has historically exhibited at Bristol Flower Show.  However, in 2004 he switched the prestigious National Amateur Garden Show held in early September at the Bath and West of England show ground at Shepton Mallet where he has been awarded best in show on two occasions so far.  Since he has now “retired” he has been persuaded to put on a small exhibit at the Taunton Flower Show, described as the Chelsea of the West, on 3rd and 4th August.  Like JC he is hoping to have a few blooms ready by the first week end in August.

Although there were no show blooms to see there was a stunning display of pendulas in pedestal baskets on the garden down to the greenhouses.  These have survived the weather, so far, and will be used as spot highlights on his exhibits.
   The evening finished with a general chit chat while enjoying a cup of tea and home made fruit bread and sponge cake supplied by Gary’s wife, Joy, before wending out way home through the lanes of Somerset.   A good afternoon and evening was had by all.

John Chiswell's shadehouse


General view of shade house

Blooms for Portchester

Gary Dando's Pendulas

b.Le Flamboyant



b.Scarlet Pimpernel

b.Ophelia  b.Bridal Cascade




Begonias at the Rose & Sweet Pea Show

A Spring Visit to the South West Area Representative's Greenhouses     Garden Begonias     October Begonias
 A Spring Visit to B&L 2007     An Early Visit to B&L 2008     B&L Chelsea Preview May 2008
B&L Chelsea Preview May 2009