The National Begonia Society



Michael Richardson's Diary  2016

National Society Cut bloom Champion 2014

Michael's 2015 Diary



2016 Diary Episode 6 - Things are starting to move. 

Saturday 27th February –
It’s exactly 2 weeks since I put my tubers in and as you can see by the picture to the left, shoots and some lovely looking roots have broken the surface of the compost.
My old method of starting my tubers in homemade wooden trays of compost that fitted into my hotbox’s, used to take approx. 3 weeks before I saw signs of life.
My new method has them showing life in under 2 weeks.

Wednesday 2nd March –
I did something a little bit different this year, this was something I latched onto when we visited Ian Donaldson’s home last year. When the first shoots broke through the surface of the compost I took the bubble wrap cover off.
I wanted the tuber to think “sod that I don’t want to grow up just yet, let’s just make root where it’s warm instead”. This was because I wanted to try and get the tuber to put more energy into producing its root ball.

Sunday 6th March –
The compost is drying out a lot quicker now due to the following reasons.
    • I have taken the makeshift bubble wrap lid off.
    • My new hotbox layout where the compost is near as damn-it sat on top of the sand and heated cables.
    • Believe me you have to watch the moisture levels of your compost very carefully.

Friday 11th March –
As you can see from the pictures to the left and right my begonias are starting to move now.
One problem I have is where to put my plants once they get potted up from the hotbox into their first pot so I can keep them sat on a little heat as not to shock them too much.
Last year I bought a 6ft x 2ft electric blanket and never used it, I thought it was a good idea at the time but could not find anywhere to put it.

But today I had a brainwave –
I had some 3 x 4ft long by 1ft wide and 1 inch thick polystyrene lengths in my shed that I had acquired from somewhere last year, thinking they would come in handy at some point in the future.
    • I cut them down to fit into the 2ft square by 2 inch deep aluminium “tray tops” (see pic to the left)
    • Then laid the 3 x 2ft square by 1 inch deep polystyrene sheets that came with the electric blanket into the top of each “tray tops” (see pic to right).
    • Then I unrolled the electric blanket across the top of the now 3 x 2ft square and 2inch thick “insulated pads” (see pic to left).
• Finally I laid the black plastic membrane that lays across the top of the electric blanket (see pic to right).
Now I am ready to start potting up.

Saturday 12th March –
Today's the day I start mixing my homemade Johns Innes 2 compost (see pic to left), as it’s not long before I will have to start the first potting of the plant. The mixes are bagged and left to sit, this will let the fertilizer, lime etc. dissolve with in the mix.
The “bags” are then stored under my hotboxes so they warm up a little ready for when I use it – well I believe this will give me an edge in a weird sort of way.

Sunday 13th March – Scottish excursion No2
The start -
Up and out of the front door for 06:30am to pick up Vincent Potts for 7am, and 5 minutes later further up the road we picked up Robert Bryce (What happened at Roberts is explained in my Hybridisation articles). Then we headed back up north to visit our Scottish compadres as this was the Scottish Begonia Society's second meeting of the year and the speaker was our own
 Jeff Rhodes.  I must admit I was more than a little anxious as the next trip North the speaker would be me!!!!
The arrival -
We arrived at Robert Nelsons for around 10am, we went round the back of his house to see if he was there. We could not see him about, then all of a sudden he appeared at the door I think he was surprised to see us there that early.
At this point I informed Robert Nelson that Vincent had not made us the much anticipated fruit bowls, as you can probably understand we were not happy bunnies.
Then we were given the Royal Tour –
1. He showed us the little propagating house he had built at the bottom of his main greenhouse, as you can see from the pictures to the left his plants here are ready to be potted up – and the picture to the right shows plants already potted up and put back on a little heat, to help the transition from hotbox to pot.
2. His middle greenhouse as you can see had plants that he had already potted up. They had been potted up using Everris Levington M2 Pot & Bedding compost. Robert told us that he was going to start taking cuttings the following day (see pic to left).
3. In his Propagating greenhouse his main hotbox was nearly empty as most of his tubers that had been in were now potted up. They were a lot potted up and just sat on a little heat in this greenhouse as well as you can see by the pictures  to the left and right.

After a long conversation on yep you have guessed it…. Begonias - Margaret, Robert’s better half called us in for a drink and something to eat.
After filling our bellies we went back outside and loaded the second and final load of wood for Vincent that Robert had saved for him, as you can see from the picture to the left.
We left for the meeting at 12:00hrs so Robert could get to the committee meeting in time.

The meeting –
Geoff Rhodes took the floor and gave a talk on his specialist subject – Species. One very interesting part of his talk was when he explained how he keep his greenhouse humidity up. He runs a water drip system down the middle of his bench which keeps his bench damp resulting in constant humidity level.
If I am honest whilst doing this Cultural Diary I have found a greater understanding and affinity to this type / class of begonia I cannot explain why only that I have.
Geoff’s talk went down well and he even took a Q&A session at the end.
At the end of the meeting we said our goodbyes and headed home.
The return -
Robert was dropped off at home for just before 19:30hrs and shortly afterwards I dropped Vincent at his front door and between us we unloaded his second load of contraband from Scotland. As I backed onto my driveway and turned off the ignition I could swear I heard the car a big sigh of relief that another Caledonian Tour was over.

Sunday 20th March –
Started to take my first plants out of the hotbox today and pot them up into my full blown John Innes No2, using my following 2 guidelines:–
    • Gently shake the “spent” multipurpose from around the roots
    • And just remember how big your tuber is in relation to your first pot or you could be over-potting your plant without you actually knowing it.

I know my Johns Innes 2 mix is not for the faint hearted. It scared the life out of P.Sourbutts half way through last year when I gave him a plant that he was after, as within a couple of days he had re-potted it into his own softer medium.
When they are potted up they are given a light watering and then stood on the electric blanket to keep them on some heat to help them with their transition from hotbox to pot as you can see via the picture to the left.
I also carried 3 late cuttings of Joan Bryce over winter on my daughter’s bedroom window sill, today I took any new leaves etc. as cuttings and placed them in a small tray of coir and put them on a small propagator to root (see pic to the right).

1st near disaster has occurred with my cutting tubers – as I put them in the propagator using a well-known multipurpose compost as I had not mixed my own at this time. The result is very poor growth so I will not be using that brand of multipurpose again – the strange thing is I have never had a problem with it before and they seem to have altered the composition of it, It now holds a lot of water. So I will not be using that stuff again I will just make sure I stock up on some Everris Levington M2 Pot & Bedding compost for the start of the year.
That left me no option but to re-pot them all up into individual pots using M2 as above with the hope they will come round and hopefully catch up (see pic Q to the left).
I did find that every cutting tuber had at least 2 shoots each breaking through the top of the tuber, so there is life just need the root to catch up now.

Saturday 26th & Sunday 27th March
Over the weekend I continued potting up plants from the hotbox into their first pots whilst choosing the strongest looking “stem” that I wanted to be the main stem, any other “stems” where taken as basal cuttings.
As you can see by the picture to the right my Sankey propagator had a tray full of coir placed in it and my unwanted “stems” that I took as basal cuttings have been put in the tray of coir to root.

Tuesday 29th March
Carried on potting up tubers from the hotbox to their first pots today, that’s about 60 potted now. Just waiting for those slow tubers to catch up now, so they can be potted up.
The picture to the left shows the state of play in my propagating greenhouse, everything is starting to move now.

Until next time….

Michael is the Speaker at
Springfield Community Centre, Forrest Street, Clarkston – Airdrie ML6 7FG   Sunday 10th. April 2.30pm.                  
The NBS Yorkshire/Humberside Area Meeting Saturday 23rd. April -  See Events page for further details


Michael's 2016 Diary