The National Begonia Society



Having retired in 2005 I decided to venture into the world of the Double Flowered Begonia. Prior to this I had been growing and showing Fuchsia’s at a national level for many years and to a certain extent had been responsible for changing the way that they are now being grown by the top flight of showmen. I decided from the outset that rather than try and change anything in the begonia world I would simply listen to the older/wiser growers with a view to accepting that everything that they had to say was gospel. Sadly, the more I listened the more I found that the information being passed on did not in my opinion totally add up e.g. a cutting has only one eye, leaf cuttings are not viable, a plant cannot produce tubers above soil level and so on. This was to lead me down a path of exploration and experimentation in order that I could glean a greater understanding/knowledge of the plant.

I have been fortunate enough to make friends with a number of our top growers both north and south of the border and have concentrated my efforts on both growing cut blooms and developing my own ideas on propagation.  My work involving propagation was published within the NBS handbook 2017 therefore I do not intend to delve into this subject in any great detail. This year will bring many challenges as I intend for the first time to grow a number of pot plants having previously only ever grown one during the 2016 season. My inspiration with regard to pot plants comes from Jim Mihulka, the Coalburn duo John and Mairi Hamilton and from the south Bob Bryce.

For the purposes of showing, judging rules north and south of the border are basically the same for pot plants with the main difference being that in Scotland a grower can now have more than one tuber of the same variety in a pot as opposed to a single tuber elsewhere. This recent change brings pot plants in line with pendula, basket and species growing and, at the same time in my opinion makes it simpler for both the grower and judge as no longer will the grower have to discard a number of plants due to basal shoots failing to face in the required direction or lacking in number or for that matter having to delay growing pot plants until they have grown or acquired larger tubers. It also allows the judges to concentrate on judging the exhibit without focusing their attention on how many tubers may or may not be in the pot. I will be interested to see if there is a difference in quality between a pot plant grown from a single tuber than one grown from multiple tubers.

All my starting up and propagation takes place within my 10 feet x 8 feet greenhouse in which I have two custom built propagators (one either side running from the front towards the rear) and at the rear a single hot bed running left to right. It should be noted that I do not heat this greenhouse unless in an emergency as being a Scot born and bred I do not part with money lightly. On the rare occasions that I do heat the greenhouse I have to heat an area 10 feet (3.04m) x 8 feet (2.44m) by approximately 6 feet (1.83m) in height. By only heating the two propagators the heated area is reduced to 8 feet (2.44m) x 3 feet (0.914m) x 14 inches (35.56cm) in height (inclusive of the sand bed) for each propagator. I will leave it to you to do the calculations but there is a significant cost saving. My larger greenhouse measures 20 feet x 12 feet and is used from April each year. It is unheated but can be kept frost free if required.

The content of this diary is produced only as “FOOD FOR THOUGHT” describing how I approach my growing on a monthly basis. If it proves helpful to you in any way then it will certainly have been worth while. Happy growing.


Growing Diary – February

 Prior to being contacted by Brian Simmons to cover my growing diary my season was already underway and I will therefore commence my diary from today’s date 9 February. In order to get you up to speed I planted both my adult (mainly two year old tubers) and cutting tubers on 5 February in a multi purpose peat based compost and watered them in. This is the first year that my adult tubers were pipped prior to putting them into compost and this would equate to starting them on 15 January in previous years. Already I can see a bit of confusion setting in so let me explain.  For me it would normally take some three weeks from planting unpippped tubers to getting them all to a stage of being pipped so that process had already been achieved before planting.

I regularly hear growers discussing starting dates with one saying for example that they started their tubers on 15 January (not pipped) and another saying that they felt that 15 January was too early in the season and that they did not start their tubers until 5 February (pipped). Unknown to them their tubers were started on more or less the same day with the 1st grower bringing their tubers to life by introducing them to heated compost whilst the 2nd to heated air (increasing seasonal temperatures).

As I put pen to paper so to speak within the right hand propagator of my greenhouse are my cutting tubers in 1 litre square pots and to the left my adult tubers in 1.5 litre square pots all have an ambient temperature of approximately 18-20°c. In previous years I started my tubers in an “open root run” system but approximately five years ago I changed to my current setup. There are numerous advantages with this system e.g. less compost required, no root disturbance when potting on, better control of watering (each individual plant can be watered according to its own needs) and so on.

It is my intention to update this diary every two weeks or so and for any NBS member who may wish to seek clarification on any of its content then feel free to do so via the NBS facebook and if time allows, I will endeavour to answer them. For those of you who have not visited this site it is run by Phil Champion on behalf of the NBS and is a very worth while addition to their portfolio. 












Description of Photographs 

1,2 and 3 show general views of both my greenhouses. The larger one measures 20 feet x12feet.
4. Custom made propagator with hinged lid in the closed position.
5. Parasene rod thermostat used to control the temperature within the propagator (ambient) while the aquarium thermometer displays the   temperature within the pot.
6. Aquarium thermometer sensor within a random pot.
7. Previous “open root run” system with cutting tubers.
8. Latest system again with cutting tubers (right hand side)
9. With adult tubers (left hand side)
10. First basal shoot of the year to break the surface

Cultural Diaries