The National Begonia Society


Countdown 2020 June  Week 2

Robert Bryce


  Hi All,

First, I hope all are well and making the best of the improving situation. Another week has gone by and you can see what has happened with the plants in my greenhouses. I am reasonably happy so far.

In order that you can understand what I am doing you must understand my approach to growing. I aim to help anything I grow to achieve its full potential without too much human intervention. I believe that the plant knows what it wants to do and I try to help it on its way. How do I do this? By looking closely at the plant foliage, the root system and the flower buds. I do not often talk to my plants but I feel they know I am helping them.

So, a few things and quirks that I do! I learnt certain things from the very best growers one of which was Bertie Cruikshank who I believe was the best grower of any plant life whatever it was. I have also read extensively about horticulture over close to 40 years. My quirks, I always crock my pots and on to of the crocks I add a handful of alpine grit. Why? I do not want my plant to have wet feet or trench foot. Ask yourself would you be happy. Some may think that this is OTT but Bert would also add a handful of leaf mould as well. Bert used to grow on top of slates so used to add legs on his pots (see photo) so that air could get underneath and up his pots. Another thing I do is regularly go round each pot with a large label or pea cane to allow air to get to the roots. Some people think the roots should never be disturbed quite why I do not know. In fact, when potting on I always tease the roots out. No pot within a pot for me.

With compost these days I try to take no risks I have been bitten too many times. I use only Clover Professional products and Keith Singletons John Innes, they also have to be fresh and just delivered. I always ask. The only intervention to the composts are the addition of alpine grit or coarse perlite. I like compost to drain and aerate.

This last week I have been taking all my stem cuttings off the stems see Phil Champions excellent video clips on the Begonias  For All Facebook pages (except where I want them). I finished on Sunday. I followed this in the evening with the first feed other than what was in the pot. It was a feed with Calcium Nitrate (18% Nitrogen and 26% Calcium) my plants were telling me that the ph. in the compost needed rebalancing so that I will achieve better blooms. I fed 1 teaspoon full in my 1.5-gallon watering can. What will happen? The feed will supply fast acting Nitrogen to boost the stem and foliage and the calcium will make the root system give its best efficiency. It should be noted that my pots are full of roots having gone first from the open hot bed to a 4-inch pot, then a 6-inch pot finally to a 7-inch pot. The depth I have planted in any pot was determined by the roots it produced. Just so you know most of my tubers were cutting tubers from last year not all, these are in bigger pots. Some people decide they are in their final pots far to early and then do not get the results and then wonder why and complain. Remember it is the plant itself that tells you what it wants, food. I personally would not like to look at a root system when it is pot bound it is usually brown telling you it is hungry and fed up. No later feed in the pot will act as a catch up, plants are stubborn and semi close down with mistreatment. Wouldnít you?

So now to feed some people say it is a minefield it isnít but never feed because someone else does only when you understand what it will do. How do you learn, you read (amazing!) and experiment. It is like finding a cure for Covid 19 everyone has an opinion usually just drivel but some have educated themselves and can achieve results. When feeding any plant look at the plants reaction several times a day you may learn something! I try to feed in the pot as little as I can and usually from here I only only feed a root feed prior to selecting the buds. AFTER THAT NO FEED UP UNTIL AROUND 22 DAYS BEFORE MY BLOOMS ARE FULL OUT. Also remember the weather determines what you can feed not too much Potash when it is hot and sunny (the sun provides it) also do not feed lots of Nitrogen in that weather as it will soften the plant and leaf scorch (plus disorders) and stem rot can result. Again, the plant will not like it would you? Never overfeed as like you the plant will get fat bloated and lazy. Not a good idea as the later results will not be what you want!

A little-known fact is that Begonia leaves and stems have lots of hairs for a reason? They regulate optimum photosynthesis so never overshade. They trap or dispel heat and some may note leaves tend to curl in hot sunshine. This is natural not something you have done, get over it, you are supposed to be helping the plant.

Lastly for this week I must tell you that any well grown healthy plant will prepare itself for the bloom it is intending to carry. In my case the optimum bloom and lots of petal is the aim. So when the right buds are on the stem arches itself backwards to support the weight of the expected bloom. Why then stick a sheet of cardboard behind it to straighten it? My greenhouse is not a stationary cupboard. Human intervention gone mad!

Thatís it until next week my plants are growing the stems are thickening the leaves are shining and when I cut open buds there are plenty of layers petals and one centre. Happy days.

Bob Bryce


View across Large Greenhouse


Shooting Star


Leaning back ready for bloom


Legs on pot


One side small greenhouse

Shaping up


Shaping up 2



Shooting Star


Side Large Greenhouse


The Pots