The National Begonia Society


 Diary  2008 - Multiflora & Garden Begonias


   With many cool nights during June growth has not been as vigorous as expected, this time last year the plants were more advanced, I still live in hope that summer will eventually arrive. In spite of the cool conditions tubers left in the ground are showing growth as can be seen in image 27, being planted near to a wall helps in the survival of the tubers over the winter.
   My front garden although showing some colour (image 28) is still looking a little thin regarding the spread of the plants, with the long days during this month I would have expected more ground to have been covered. They will no doubt catch up over the month of July.
   The group of begonia grandis martiana (hollyhock begonia) are now showing colour as the flowers develop (image 29), the tubers are 2 years old. The picture in the garden of my friend Phil Crosswell of 4 year old tubers (image 30), shows stronger growth and flowers further advanced.
   Another variety of mine Flutterbye “Apricot”, is useful for planting at the back of a bedding display as being a taller variety, it can be seen over the top of most multiflora varieties. (image 31) It is also a useful variety for planting in containers as the taller arching flower stems help to display the flowers (image 32). Planted in a permanent position in my Daughters garden in Jersey, it has flowered profusely every summer for the past 3 years. Surprisingly it has also proved hardy in Barry Walker's garden in North Wales, although signs of growth only show in June with flowering being much later. Plants of this variety have been available in a number of Garden centers in the past month.
   With interest now being revived in the single flowered types, the seedling shown (image 33) may be a useful addition to this type of plant, it would help as a contrast to the coloured garden varieties. I shall take some cuttings later so that I can trial this next season.
   The picture of the clean growth on a plant now recovered from the mite infestation shows both the damage and healthy shoots above the damage area (image 34). Whilst this would prevent the use of many plants for exhibition, it does allow a grower to still enjoy the benefit of flowers in the greenhouse or garden.

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   No matter how long one grows multiflora begonias, there are always a number of tubers that are planted upside down; (Image 17) 6 or 7 needed turning the right way up this season. It is easy enough to see the hollow side of seed grown tubers but with tubers grown from cuttings it is not always easy to identify which is up and which is down. Once righted the plants soon grow in the correct direction.
   As usual there is always a night frost warning at some time of month of May, this means giving any plants that have started the hardening off process some extra protection. I find it easier to re-house the plants over night. This takes some time and the plants get crowded as can be seen in image 18 but I would rather do this than chance any frost damage. In some years this can be a pain should the night frosts go on for too long, thankfully this year, it was only for a couple of nights.
   May is a good time to be taking cuttings, and whilst the cuttings in image 19 look a mixed lot, I have found that they need not look like the accepted type of cuttings as long as they root and grow. After all, what is required is the production of tubers by the seasons end and there is usually plenty of material available during May. If there is a need to increase a selected seedling and material is short, it is worth using leaves, log cuttings and any material that will root.
   There is always a variation in plant growth from tubers and whilst one tray can be full to overflowing, others can look totally different. This variation can be seen in image 20, both trays in the same compost.
    A start was made in planting my front garden on the 22nd of May, the plants in image 21, are “Flutterbye” Apricot. These are a single flower variety which being taller than the multifloras are being planted at the back of my display.
   The root system shown (Image 22) is the result of using the mineral Nutrimate incorporated into the compost, something I have been using for a number of years and it certainly improves the root development. Some of the plants had such a strong root system it was difficult knocking them out of their pots.
   You can see from the root system of a plant taken from one of the trays (image 23), that they will soon spread into the surrounding soil, unlike the pot grown plant in the previous image which will take much longer.
   The strongest plant of the Hollyhock Begonia, gracilis martiana; is already showing flower buds (image 24). Hopefully the group of 22 plants in the centre of the multifloras will be an improvement on last season’s display. I must ensure I spray on a regular basis with a suitable fungicide as the species is susceptible to mildew which is its only downside.
   Image 25 shows that the introduction of the predatory mites Amblyseius cucumeris is very effective in the treatment of the attack of Tarsonamid mite. The damage will stay on the plant but the new growth is looking very healthy. It is approximately 4 weeks since the predatory mites where introduced into the greenhouse and whilst I did move many of my baskets out under the pergola where I grow them, I returned them to the greenhouse as the predatory mites were more effective at a temperature range between 20oc to 27oc.
   There are a total of 400 begonias in the front garden (image 26), and whilst they look a little thin as yet, growth over the coming weeks should fill in the spaces and will hopefully give a good show over the summer.

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