The National Begonia Society


 Cliff Parker's South Wales Diary 2010

14th. February to 13th. March

I am retired now after spending twenty years as a maintenance man at my local Marie Curie Hospice.
I first became aware of Begonias in 1991 (I think,) I was at the Kings Heath Flower show to visit the National carnation show that was being held there, in the same marquee I came across the Begonia show and was captivated by the amazing colours compared to the colour range of my carnation collection. I spoke to a number of people on the begonia display area and my wife bought me a book on begonias written by Eric Catterall, who was at the show selling the books and I said to my wife one day I will grow Begonias instead of Carnations. Even though I gave up growing carnations in 1993 it was 10 years later that I started to grow Begonias in any quantity for my garden displays, I been looking after the gardens at the hospice as a volunteer gardener in my spare time and decided that some of the flower beds at the front of the Hospice needed to be brightened up and some of the shrubs were now ten years old and looking tired, but as no money was available to plant up new gardens was available I knew that I would have to raise money myself to pay for the bedding plants and so I purchased my first Beg Semp plugs from Gardening direct (about 1000 I think) I grew them on and sold 500 to cover the cost of purchase and planted up the rest in the Hospice gardens. My love for the Begonia was born, over the years I increased the varieties to include the Dutch doubles for pots on the patios and trailing for hanging baskets and for displays in my own gardens at home.
It was not until 2006 that I joined the National Begonia Society, and my first contact with any members was at the South West Area meeting at Nailsea in 2007.
In November 2008 Myself and the South Wales area rep Ian Rhys Williams decided to try and start a South Wales Area group for people living in the West of Wales who was finding it to far to travel to Nailsea.
 Hence the South Wales Area was born. and I was elected the Local area secretary.
I had still not grown any exhibition begonias at this stage as my main interest is still Begonia displays in my garden and the hospice gardens which have won the Penarth in Bloom completion so often now we have been asked to stand down from entering for the next couple of years to give other nursing homes a chance, but the displays will still go on.
 But in 2010 I will grow a number of exhibition pots for three Shows in 1 Bideford. 2 our own South Wales Show. And if I can afford the transport costs the National in Birmingham,
I did attempt to grow a few cut blooms for our first South Wales Area show and managed to get a few seconds in various novice classes and will try to do better next season, but my pot plants were abysmal I will concentrate on getting my pot plants up to scratch in 2010.

   My 2010 diary will cover mainly my growing of the garden displays at home and at the Hospice and a record of how my pot plants turn out at the various shows I have mentioned.  

14th. February to 13th.March
February 14th. to 16th.
feels like spring very mild but dull, all the over wintered tubers now on the to bench with no heat mat but the glasshouse is kept at 100įc, I hope I donít lose any more through the earlier frosting. Still very mild but dull more or less up to date in the greenhouse for a couple of days. Unable to work in the garden had to take my wife out for the day, as she is an invalid I try to keep Mondays free to take her for a day out. And have lunch somewhere. In the summer I then have time to work in the garden in the evening but the winter days are too short to do anything other than check the greenhouse in the morning. Woke up this morning to the first really wet day of the year, but very mild the frogs have taken over the fish pond it is already showing the first frog spawn much to the delight of the fish, they all seem to swimming around with a smile on their faces thinking what a banquet we have. The nature pond which is a safe haven for the frogs, toads, and newts is still devoid of any frogs. I will have to net up the spawn and move it over to the nature pond.
February 17th. another very wet morning, decided to stay in the greenhouse and knock my small late cuttings out of their pots to see if they had survived the winter. As these cutting were taken after July up to the end of August I was not sure if the tuber would be large enough to survive as I have never taken cutting before last season. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that out of the 80 cuttings taken only 14 had failed to survive, this is a good start to my 2010 season.  I will knock out the early cuttings tomorrow, these were taken in April, May,and June and had made good plants in 4Ĺ inch pots by the end of last season.
Slide A
the small late cuttings.
 February 18th. Day started well not to cold and a nice blue sky. I decided to carry on with tidying the garden after the winter ravages. By10am the sky had turned grey and a slight flurry of snow started, within one hour we had 4inches of snow on the ground bang went my good day of tidying up the garden, back into the greenhouse, but there is only so much that can be done in there at the moment. But at last the Sutherlandii seeds are starting to emerge. Letís hope for a better result than last year when I had a 100% germination but when I pricked them out they failed within a couple of weeks, this year I have sown the seed in peat pots and so I should not have to prick the out, I will let them grow on for as long as possible before I have to re-pot them.
Slide B
the Sutherlandii seeds.
February 20th. This must be the best day of the year so far, but apart from checking the greenhouse early this morning I have spent the day indoors painting and wall papering the Front entrance hall, landing and stairs, I had promised my wife I would spend all the Saturdays in February decorating the house. (I donít have many spare week-days) in the winter months as I play Bowls three days a week. Well at least there is only one Saturday left in this month and I will then be able to relax.
 February 21st. So bitterly cold I spent the morning in the greenhouse I knocked all my early cuttings (taken April Ė May) out of the 4inch pots they were in and scraped all the compost off the roots and checked for Vine weevil grubs, only found three in three pots so the precaution taken to drench with Provado in September and the use of Sinclairís JI 3 with added protection in the growing season seems to have paid off. Out of 89 pots 31 were completely rotted away all the others have started to shoot. This was not planned to be so early but I had put the large heating mat on. this is 21/2 metres long X 1mtr wide to getting my Geranium seedlings growing, and forgot the pots were on the far end but I think this will be a bonus later in the season as I lost a number of old tubers through frost penetration. Some of the cuttings might make single blooms for the coming season. February 22nd Still bitterly cold so apart from checking the greenhouse I took my wife out to buy some fish for her aquarium and went out to lunch. February 23 Still bitterly cold and more snow. Did not last long but then turned to icy cold rain stayed indoors except for the misting of the seedlings in the greenhouse February 24/25 very mild on both these days and nights but very wet everything in the greenhouse seems to be coming to life, the garden pond is full of frogs and the noise from them at night is tremendous, even my neighbour has commented but apart from telling the frog to keep their amorous activities down there is nothing I can do.
February 26th. Day started of great very mid and sunny, Friday is my day at the hospice I managed to fill up the fountain after cleaning out the winter debris and got it running I now believe spring is just around the corner.
More fool me by 11am a strong Northerly wind developed and sleet and rain came crashing down, at 2pm I decided to call it a day and go home to my warm greenhouse only to find that the Northerly wind had taken four corrugated plastic sheets off of my potting area two were smashed to pieces where the screws had held but the plastic was not strong enough the other two I have not found yet, I have got to go shopping, will look for them tomorrow (Saturday).
February 27th. Spent the day cleaning out the nature pond, in the course of the week I discovered dozens of dead frogs in the pond and all the frog spawn had disappeared I sent sample to my local conservation group and the reply stated that the mortality rate for frogs this year it tremendous and the problem must be put down to the long cold winter. Surprisingly the long fish pond which has water running 24/7 did not freeze completely and no dead frogs have been found in this pond and there is a tremendous amount of frog spawn.
February 28th. Today I potted up a lot of my foliage Begonias into a supply of clay pots I was given. These pots had not seen the light of day for 60 years according to the lady who asked me to clear out the basement cellar of her house, She can remember her grand-father using them but when he died they were just left in the basement, this lady is now too old to stay in the house and is going into a nursing home. Every thing in the garden seems to be sprouting well letís hope spring is coming.
March 1st. Best day of the year so far weather wise, Sun shining and the temperature in double figures. Started on the nature gardenís new stream and caught up the greenhouse work. I nearly killed myself I should not go at things like a bull at a gate on the first sign of good weather.
March 2nd., 3rd., 4th. the last three days have been glorious and plenty of work done on the garden, and in the glasshouse. All the begonia cuttings taken last year and sorted by me a week ago and re-potted have now sprouted through the compost and are growing fast. Quite a number of these will be given to the new members who joined the N B S this year and we promised a tuber to for the coming season.
Slide C
cuttings tubers in 4inch pots.
March 5th. Friday is my volunteer day at the hospice it has been a real spring day I was able to pot up the first delivery of plugs for the garden displays. A total of 800 plugs consisting of a mixture of Begonia Semps, Impatiens and Petunias. All the five boxes were paid for as a donation from a relative of a patient last December and at a cost of £9.99 for a tray of 160 plugs the total cost of less than £50.00 for the 800 plants I think is a great value for money and I hope when I ask the donor to return in the summer to see the garden display she will be very pleased.
Slide D
some of the plug plants from donation.  





March 6th. Another glorious day. Many hours spent trying to make space in the heated greenhouse, A delivery of over 1000 Begonia Nonstop plugs arrived a week earlier than I thought I had planned, managed to fit them all in but will now have to start on the potting on.
Slide E
1000 Non stop plugs.
March 9th.
the last week has been as perfect as we could have expected for this time of the year frosty at night resulting in the nature pond being frozen in the morning. And the heater in the greenhouse trying to keep the temperature at about 8įc. and the money flowing from my pocket to keep the greenhouse frost free. But at least it is full to capacity with plugs and plants and cuttings for the coming season.
March 10th. Started to pot on the Non Stop Begonia plugs today into tray inserts of 20 to a tray, this may seem a small pot up size but I find that at this time of the year when they have to go into a cold greenhouse and the only protection is a fleece covering the less compost to hold moisture the better, I will re-pot them in a couple of weeks into 7cm. individual pots ready for sale in May.
Slide F
Begonia plugs potted up. As can be seen the fleece is stapled to the edge of the staging and pulled down in the day time and then it is easy to cover the plants in the evening, it also hides all the junk under the benches, such as all my seed trays and inserts and the lawn mower. The nonstops are on the right hand side of the staging and the Illuminations on the left. Also I am trying some new varieties such as Begonia Super Star, the photos in the catalogue looked good but the plugs seem a bit leggy and look similar to dragon wings that I tried a couple of years ago and were quite disappointing, to much leaf and not enough flower. If anyone has had better results please let me know?
March 13th. Spring has arrived also all my plugs as seen in the slides including the 5250 begonia semps Slide G. It seems so easy in the winter when I design my garden displays for the coming season but when the plugs start to arrive I start to wonder if I have done the right thing. Oh well plenty of time will be spent this week-end potting up But itís great that the spring seems to arrive and I can talk about Begonias instead of just chit chat.
Slide H is a shot from the door of my 10ft heated greenhouse showing my Begonia Rex and a propagator under the bench containing my first attempt at propagating Rex leaf cuttings.





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