The National Begonia Society


 Cliff Parker's South Wales Diary 2010

14th. April to 13th. May

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. April.  Surprising how making a statement can prove quite wrong. In the diary last month on 14th. April (should have read 13th.) I stated that nothing seemed to be moving. Today all of my tubers in the propagator seem to have emerged through the peat covering over night, all the shoots are quite healthy and strong and I should be able to start taking cuttings soon.
15th. April. 
Everything in the greenhouses is looking healthy. There were a few damping off problems last week but now that I seem to have the watering under control and all the vents open in the day time, every thing seems to be growing well. I still cover with fleece at night.
16th. April. 
What a brilliant day temperature in the glasshouse even with the vents open reached 80c, but I will still cover with fleece tonight.
17th. April.
  What a shock this morning, temperature overnight dropped to -5c outside. And in the glasshouse to 4c but the fleece seemed to work, I have turned up the gas fire slightly to try and keep the greenhouse air temperature to about 10c now that the tubers a sprouting even though they are on the hot bed, But the foliage begonias are open to the air temperature and might suffer. The day time was again a beautiful day and gives us encouragement for the future summer.
18th. April our spring meeting today at Britton Ferry, Mr John Chiswell is the speaker and I am looking forward to this talk. I hope we have a good attendance, Not much time for working in the greenhouse as it is 40 miles + from my house to the venue and I will have to set up the projector and the sales tables before the members arrive.
19th. April. What a great day yesterday over forty people attended the talk, not all of them NBS members as I had written to all the local gardening clubs inviting their members along to the meeting. But we did enrol two new members into the NBS bringing our local area membership up to 40, not bad for an Area that did not exist two years ago.
20th./23rd. April.  Real spring like weather at last, very sunny but with a very cold northerly wind, making it quite unpleasant to work outside but the tidying up of the garden must be done.
A large black bamboo has taken over the garden in the last couple of years with its runners growing under the soil and shooting up all over the place. Through the winter my Son and I have had to destroy the oriental garden to try and control this menace and have not yet succeeded and I will have to start again on the removal of the plant later in the spring when the hanging baskets and all the show begonias are potted up.
24th./25th. April. Spent the week-end sorting out the over wintered tubers in the propagator and potting up all the ones that have shoots growing, I was surprised that some of them only needed a 3 or 4inch pot to fit into but some others needed a 6 inch pot as the smallest pot that they would fit in. It seemed last year when I put them away in storage for the dormant period and when I put them in the propagator that they were all about the same size with only a small variation as this is my first year of saving my tubers through the winter I had never seen this part of the growing season before.
27th. April Spent most of the day in the glasshouse re-potting the non stop and the illumination begonias into 7cm pots to get them moving in fresh compost ready for the baskets and containers. I then had to travel 50 miles to the West Wales Begonia and Stretocarpus Society meeting in Swansea to help and support our Area Rep Ian-Rhys Williams with a talk he was giving to the group and with the hope that we might sign up some new members to the NBS.
28th. April. Basically had the day off today apart from checking the greenhouses I took my wife out to visit our first National Trust garden of the season at Westbury on Severn.
29th April. After a month of dry bright weather the morning started quite dull. But as I was about to receive a delivery of 30 pieces of turf to lay around the nature pond I had to prepare the ground ready. As the turf arrived so did a pallet of 50 bags of mixed compost from Singletons and on top of that the Heavens opened and did not stop raining for the next four hours, but I still had to lay the turf and get the bags of compost around the back garden before I could go in and have a hot shower.
30th. April The sun is back out today but there is a strong North Easterly wind making it feel unpleasantly cold .but as it was my day at the Hospice the work had to carry on with the lawn to be cut and the new herb garden finished ready to start planting next week.





A fox den in the compost heap. 
Wall bags.
White mould in the compost.
Cutting tubers growing on.

1st. May. It might be the first of May but the weather thinks its the first of January, the north easterly wind has been blowing like mad and the air temperature feels like winter. But I have managed to catch up with the planting up of all my hanging basket orders, but the total is well down this year with less than fifty up to date. But I think the orders will pour in as the weather improves and the plants start to sell in a couple of weeks (I do not sell plants before the 14th. May) my customers know this and normally wait until then, I need these orders to cover the cost of the garden displays at the Hospice.
2nd. May.
 Started on the second potting up of some of the cutting tubers in 5inch pots some were quite root bound I hope I have not left them to late for this potting up. Most of my over wintered tubers are now in their first pots. 13 of the tubers in the propagator have failed out of the 70 put in, all of these were frosted in December but looked fine after the winter storage and so were put in the propagator but on removal and cut open they are brown in the centre. This has taught me to not take chances with the temperature in December and to fleece up the pots of tubers that are slow to die down at the end of the season. Thankfully I have 2 cutting tubers of each growing on but this will cut my tubers for my pots down for this year.
3rd./4th. May.
Weather dry but extremely cold because of the wind. Have the day in the glasshouse potting on all the tubers that required moving up a pot size, everything seems to be moving very fast now as if to make up for lost time due to the very cold start to spring.
5th. May. After the early morning watering I took my wife out for the day to the Welsh National Botanical Gardens near Carmarthen in West Wales. The weather was perfect .When we arrived home I had received orders for forty hanging baskets not the best moss lined baskets that I would have liked but the 10inch plastic pots that I call my cheap and cheerful containing Petunias Lobelia and Impatiens. these are purchased by my local gardening /greengrocer shop who tends to make more money on them than I do, but they do help to make the money required for the sponsorship of the Hospice gardens It is surprising what a warm day does to convince people that it is time to start their summer displays. But have had to tell my customers it is still too early to plant out tender bedding plants, we had a frost last night. And for the last 3 nights the temperature in the greenhouses dropped to 5c.
6th. May.
Polling day today and the weather is as gloomy as the people heading to the polling station a couple of doors down from my house. I have spent the day cutting the box hedge parterre in my front garden ready to take the Begonia Semps that will be going in later this month. They are still not growing as fast as I would like for this time of the year. When checking the rear on the greenhouse I noticed that a fox had made a den in my large compost heap. (PHOTO A) this heap has not been disturbed for a number of years as I had seen grass snakes and some newts around the area in the past.  With my wife being mad on wild life in the garden my garden is like a large menagerie.
7th. May.
Another cold windy day but dry enough to get on with the gardens at the Hospice 60 wall bags now complete with the Begonia Semps and are ready to hang on the front of the building when the weather improves, at present they are hung on the court yard walls of the hospice which is well protected from any frost and is the only place with a large enough wall space to take the 60 bags.(PHOTO B)
8th. May. Spent the morning at my Local horticultural club coffee morning and annual plant sale. This is really the only occasion each year where we can raise the money needed to cover the cost of our annual show, which is held at the local sports centre. With hire fees, table hire .and judges fees plus the prize money we need 3000.00 to cover this event.  We are so lucky in our Area group of the NBS here in South Wales to get all our show accommodation and tables free of charge at the garden centre. I dont think we would be able to raise the money required without the free site at the garden centre.
9th. May. Had a bad day health wise today unable to work in the greenhouses or garden.
10th. May. Feeling bit better today and the weather has improved tremendously but still a cold wind. I was able to start sorting the Exhibition Pots. A lot will require potting on in the next couple of days. I will start to mix to the potting compost tomorrow in my cement mixer and start later on in the day with the potting up, just dawned on me I have not washed the pots yet, I will go down now and spend the evening washing them, It must be a better option than watching the ever growing saga of the election post mortem.
11th. May. Like a spring day today temperature about average for May, But last night the temperature dropped to 6c in the glasshouse but no problems with the plants. I have started to plant up some of my window boxes, but they will have to stay on the benches in the polythene house until the week-end when it is forecast that the temperatures should start to raise. Fortunately living so close to the sea I do not tend to get ground frosts after the start of May. I started to pot up a lot of the Begonia Semps for the garden displays, but have noticed the a lot of them have lagged behind in their growth, I have also noticed the stunted ones have a white mildew affect on the potting compost. I dont know if this is causing any of the problems. (PHOTO C) I did write to the compost manufacturer (a well know brand sold in garden centres) a couple of weeks ago to complain that I had cut my fingers three times on glass in the compost) which contained a proportion of recycled material, it seemed to me to have more recycled materials including a lot of chipped wood than peat compost. I always use light gloves when potting up, but the supplier informed me with an apology that industrial gloves should be used when handling compost. As we all know this is impossible when handling small plugs.
12th. May. A bad start to this morning, on entering the glasshouse I found the glass in the back end of the glasshouse had been severely vandalised with a number of the panes of glass broken. But quite large stone being thrown from the country park that is behind my house. The nearest path is about 25 yards from my back fence with brambles and nettles separating the path and my garden and so the problem must have been caused be young adults as I was in the glasshouse until 9.30pm (this is the first glass to be broken in my glasshouse since it was erected 30 years ago. Because I had shade netting across the back and on the roof the stones were caught up but dragged the netting down onto me cane-begonias causing the to break the main stems which is quite disappointing as I had grown these on through the winter to try and get some specimen plants ready for the show season, I will now start again.
13th. May. Cheered up this morning, all my 2009 cuttings tubers are romping away in their pots, at the moment they are making a much better plant than my over-wintered tubers.( PHOTO D)  As this is the first time I have ever grown my own plants for my show use instead of purchased tubers I am well pleased. I hope to use some of these as single stem pots and some for cut blooms. As I will only be showing in the novice classes at a couple of shows and I hope at the national, I hope they will make some reasonable pots and blooms to supplement my small collection of older tubers.

14th. June to 13th. July
14th. March to 13th.April     14th. February to 13th.March     19th. December - 13th.February

The South Wales Area          South Wales Area Show 2009