The National Begonia Society


 Diary  2008 - Multiflora & Garden Begonias


   In spite of the wet and damp summer and lack of sunshine, the multifloras have never been better and the bloom volume and ability to stand all the rain has proved how invaluable they are for garden use.  Whilst beds and containers planted with Impatiens have had enough and died, the multifloras have gone from strength to strength and I think my show is an improvement on the previous years. I find it interesting to look at the pictures over the past 3 seasons, 2006 was warmer than the past couple of years, and looking at the images only proves how useful they are for garden display in various weather conditions. (Images 44, 45, and 46).
   A couple of plants of Begonia; gracilis martiana, or Hollyhock begonia have succumbed to the continuing wet weather and rotted at the base. Coming from Mexico I suppose this is not too surprising, on the other hand their foliage looks very healthy and they have been in bloom for many weeks. They have now started to develop their bulbils a picture of these is shown in image 47; every year I find a number of them will fall and grow outside in the soil and are flowering by mid August, the winter outside does not kill them off so they must be reasonably hardy.
   “La Madelon” in Jeff Abbots garden was looking very good in the early part of the month (Image 48), in most seasons it is starting to look tired by this time of the year, so we can assume the cool conditions have also suited this variety very well. It is a variety that is the first to start after the winter rest and the first that comes into flower, usually showing a few flowers when it is planted out in early June. Whilst its flower shape is somewhat rough, the colour is superb with masses of flowers that almost hide the leaves.
   The picture of “Flutterbye” (image 37 in the July page) continues to grow strongly and the plants in the container in Phil Crosswell’s garden now measure 47 inches across and 38 inches high, which includes the container. There are 3 tubers planted they about 3 years old, and being planted in full light the colour of the flowers is very bright this has persuaded me that this is the best way to grow this variety of mine. The plants growing in my front garden are not being shown in the best way, as they are too crowded and are hidden by other plants around them.
   One disappointment has been the late change of the flowers of “Peardrop” in my garden, in normal summers the flower centre changes to yellow from early to mid August; this is shown on the flowers grown in the greenhouse (image 49). I think it requires slightly higher temperatures for this colour change, in fact on a visit to Germany at the beginning of July, the plants being grown in the propagation nursery all had this attractive coloured centre. Even so the salmon rose colour is still bright and showy.
   The lush growth this season has as much to do with applying dolomite lime to the garden in mid winter, something that it seems many growers no longer think about, although this was standard practice when I grew vegetables over 50 years ago. The growth of “Yellowhammer” that can be seen in image 50, is more lush than it has been in previous years. Blood, Fish, and bone fertilizer was also spread over the soil surface a few weeks before planting in late May.
   I have had many requests for this variety, but it has a fault in the yellowing of the foliage one reason it has not been distributed, although it has been tested for 10 different viruses these have proved negative. We have come to the conclusion that this must be a genetic fault; I had hoped that it would now have been available commercially so it is back to the drawing board to try to breed this out.
   Flower pouches can make a good display when planted with semperflorans begonias, the ones pictured image 51 being grown by my friend Phil Crosswell, ideal for covering a fence. I have tried them, but never seem to obtain the success that Phil has.
   Mildew continues to crop up from time to time, using Fungus Clear from Scotts seems to cure the
problem for many weeks, it is well worth the £5.00.

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   The cool and wet conditions continued in the early to mid part of the month, and to my surprise “Le Flamboyant” had an early attack of mildew, something not usually expected until late in the season, an application of a systematic fungicide soon cured this.
   Another job for the month was to use the biological treatment to kill off any vine weevil grubs, this is a nematode that gains entry to the grubs, once inside it releases a bacteria which kills it within 48 hours. The nematodes reproduce inside the dead grub and are then released back into the soil to infect more vine weevil grubs. Trade name “Nemasys” Steinernema kraussei, (Image 35) I used them for the first time last year it proved extremely effective as the only plant that showing some grubs was a non treated pot of Semperflorans begonias.
   The nematodes are watered into your pots and around any plants in your garden, so can seek out any grubs, even any that have already gained access to any tubers.
   In spite of the poor weather by the middle of the month the front garden was becoming quite colourful, although as in previous years a number of errors in my planting became apparent, as I had tried to plant a middle section with a lot of pink and salmon. The arched planting of “Yellowhammer “ would have looked better had I carried the planting into a full arch, as the varieties planted in the centre being lower growing varieties spoiled the overall effect. (Image 36).
   Another disappointment was the single flowered varieties planted to the rear of the display, as in this position they do not show to good effect, they are more suited to container display as can be seen in the picture of “Flutterbye”grown by my friend Phil Crosswell. (Image 37).
   This was mentioned as being hardy in some parts of the country in the June page, the picture of this in my daughters garden in Jersey (Image 38) taken at the beginning of the month shows how well it can perform, this is after a number of years in this position. also noticeable was that the tubers have now pushed themselves to the surface, although they where originally planted about 4 inches below the gravel into the soil underneath.
   Although there were some plants of “Flutterbye”apricot available in garden centres this year, they should be more readily available next season as there were a few production problems early this season.
   Using a dot plant or two can help in the overall effect when planting out any bedding scheme, the grasses used are a dark leaved millet (Image 39), standard Fuchsias, Cannas and even the tall flowered Lobelias are also useful but one of the best dot planting I have seen is in a bed in Jeff Abbot's rear garden. This was a large basket planted with “Le Flamboyant” set on top of a post, the planting shown (Image 40) was taken down last season and overwintered in his greenhouse. Without removing the tubers from the container, watering was started at the usual time and the display in the old compost could not be better. The picture shows an empty basket the same size as the one in flower.
   A number of varieties I use are not generally available but a couple of them could be in limited commercial production for next season and in a few garden centres. The old variety “Ami Jean Bard” which was bred by Arthur Billard in 1909 being one of them (Image 41). The varieties Madame Richard Galle and Gents Jewel being sports from this and came on the picture in 1932, I was fortunate in finding a yellow sport from Madame Richard Galle a few years ago and there are hopes that this will also be available next season. It has been named Lemondrops, and whilst it looks very like Frau Helen Harmes, the colour is a little brighter and the habit the same as Ami Jean Bard and the other sports. (Image 42).
   The warmer conditions of the past few weeks although wet at times, have brought the flowers out and the front garden is now looking quite colourful (Image 43), although there are a few patches where the plants have not grown as I would have liked

   Readers may be interested in the ongoing Tarsonamid mite problems, I have heard of Foxgloves and Penstemons being infected, and seen an infection on some pepper plants, so looking around thinking you have inadvertently brought an infected plant into your greenhouse may be totally wrong. As there could be distinct possibility that other plants in your garden other than begonias could be infected, and these have spread the mites to your begonias.


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