2016 Diary Episode 7 - Spreading the word.
Well there is only
one way to start this instalment.
On the way back
from the last Scottish Begonia Society Meeting I had my picture very kindly
taken by Dumfriesshire's finest – resulting in me –
• Having to make a donation to the Secret Policeman’s Ball.
• Also they kindly gave me some points to add to my Nectar
Well they have had enough chances over this last decade or so, so I
am not grumbling. As the saying goes “it was a fair speed camera”
The “Talk” – I wanted to try and do something a little different -
thought provoking, educational, humorous and I wanted audience
One thing I did know was the talk was going to start with a section
called “Contentious Corner”, yep this part of my Diary was going on
Whether it comes across like that I don’t know but only time will
tell, and the “audience” will let me know.
The group – North
The venue – Hartwood Hall, Chorley
The speaker – Me
We have a saying up here to describe how I was feeling “I was
bricking it” which basically makes I was very apprehensive /
I would like to thank all those North West area members who came -
as well as John Hamilton, Robert Nelson and Bob Robertson who
travelled down from Scotland - Clifford Hurst who came up from Stoke
and even Alan Bryce put in an appearance whilst on a visit from
The feedback I got back from Peter Sourbutts and Robert Nelson was
that it needed a little more colour to entertain and cater for
certain sections of the crowd. This resulted an additional “section”
entitled – Some Colour for the Ladies – being added for the Scottish
Begonia Society talk.
I finished potting up all my tubers today, so now everything are in
their first pots. However I did find about a dozen tubers both big
and small that had just started to throw root and the tuber itself
looked sound. So I potted these up in small pots using multipurpose
compost as they were not ready for a full blown John Innes no2 just
As you can see by the picture to the right my main greenhouse is
the nerve centre of the operation at the moment.
Sunday 10th April –
The group – Scottish Begonia Society
The venue – Springfield Community Centre, Airdrie - Scottish Begonia
The speaker – Me
My road crew – Vincent Potts
Bodyguard – Dave Weatherby (they can be a tough crowd)
I was really relaxed on the drive up to Scotland and felt at one
with the world. When we got to Robert Nelsons we found that Tony
Shepherdson and Colin Elsworth had also called into Robert's before
the meeting, so Robert had 4 growers mooching around his greenhouses
inspecting his plants. As you can see Dave Weatherby in the picture to the left lurking in one of Robert's greenhouses and the picture to the right shows some of Robert's plants in their
Then Margaret called us in for something to eat, but on this
occasion we were guided into the dining room to find the dining room
table set out as you can see from this picture to the left.
At this point it hit me, I felt like a condemned man facing his last
meal and my nerves kicked into overdrive. When Robert Nelson went to
the Committee Meeting not even a quick visit to Samuel and Elizabeth
Kennedys home and greenhouses and a very kind gift of 4 hybrid
seedlings from some hybridising he had done could ease my nerves.
Then it was time to go to the meeting.
My roadie Vincent Pots had gone AWOL and I had to set my own
equipment up and then they wired me up to a microphone. Up rose the
President of the Scottish Begonia Society Mr Robert Nelson to
address the masses that had gathered, he asked for the
lights to be turned down and then introduced me as the speaker for the
My legs had turned to jelly and it felt like I had forgotten what my
talk was about. I found myself looking at the screen as my mind kept
going blank due to nerves.
Not long into the talk it happened, for want of a better phase –
hecklers corner came to life – John Hamilton, Phil Champion led them
and Jim Evans and Robert Nelson joined in – and as the saying goes
“they took no prisoners”. I did ask at one point if I could get this
“corner” evicted from the hall but the request was met with a wall
It certainly was a baptism of fire but I came out of it a little
older and wiser with some of the answers I got back to various points I
raised and questions I had asked the audience.
I would like to thank everyone who turned up and the kind words that
were said after the meeting.
When I eventually got home I needed a dark room and heavily sedating.
Sunday 17th April –
Some plants are starting to move now and others are hanging back.
I managed to pot up my
first batch of rooted cuttings today, they were
those Joan Bryce cuttings I took earlier this year from some
cuttings that I brought through winter on a window sill as per the
picture to the left as they were well rooted and if I am honest
they should have been potted up a lot earlier.
Then I went through about 50% of my plants ensuring I have all the
cuttings that are on offer and any other side shoots are “rubbed
Vincent Pots had arranged this last minute road trip to Dibleys to
replace some stock, and on the way back (via the long way round) we
were going to pop into Ron Aldous’s home to drop off 500 plant
Vincent left his car off at mine for 9am, then we departed for
Wales – Ruthin and Dibleys.
It was a hell of a trek to Dibleys through single track country
lanes but we managed to find it ok.
On arrival we found Rex Dibley in one of his “greenhouses” and
Vincent introduced us. Rex then showed Vincent some new varieties
that they had hybridised but not released yet as they were still
under “scrutiny” so to speak. Vincent was after the odd one but Rex
was not for letting them go yet.
So Vincent got his shopping list out and Rex went round fulfilling
his order. Whilst they were doing this I was looking at some
magnificent specimen plants he had on the next table that were
destined for Chelsea Flower Show, one was particular striking, its
name was Begonia Sizemoreae (see a picture of this variety to the
right). When you saw these plants and compared them to Vincent’s I
thought he had been growing them for years, but when I asked how old
they where he shocked me when he said they were about a year’s worth
of growth. I was amazed, not only that but they were all grown in
large shallow plastic bowls.
Now I am going to shock some of you out there as I had done myself.
Vincent and Rex where discussing a variety that throws thick trunks
out when Rex took Vincent to another part of the greenhouse to show
him a specimen of the same variety in all its glory. Whilst they were
sideling along between 2 long benches to reach it, at this point I
saw another plant it in all its glory – it looked like a fabulous
deep red plant and when the sun shone against it glowed an amazing
bright red – the variety was called Midnight Magic
and I bought a
plant of it as you can see by the picture to the left – I know the
shame of it of it, but I could not resist it. That’s what happens
when you hang around with Vincent Potts for so long you catch the
medical condition known as “speiciaties”….
Rex then kindly showed us his Streptocarpus seedlings and pointed to
one in particular it was very heavily scented and he seemed pretty
happy about it. However there was another one that impressed him
just as much as well, he explained that this was down to the way it
held its head of flowers. When I asked him what he did with all the
seedling that never made it, Rex just said can you see them piles of
compost outside… well they go on there.
Before we left Rex let myself and Vincent walk up to another
greenhouse to have a look in, it certainly had the WOW factor as it
was ½ acre greenhouse full of Streptocarpus in pristine condition –
no words or pictures trying explain the sight would do it any
justice you just had to see it to believe it.
We left Dibleys and made our way uphill and down dale across country
to Llandudno Junction and Mr Aldous abode.
Ron Aldous home -
On arrival his dog tried to eat us!!! Ron
appeared and calmed the beast down. We took the supports to his
Greenhouse where they joined the rest of them – he must have approx.
a 1,000 + supports now in storage. Not only is Ron going after the
2016 pot plant championship but he is also having a go at cut blooms
as well this year.
His plants for pot plant work have 4 stems coming up, that’s how
many stems Steve Jones grows for his pot plant work.
Ron had issues with plants toppling from off his staging last year –
and he showed us some pictures of the carnage that had resulted. So
this year he is screwing empty pots to his staging then will stand
the plant and pot in it at a later date.
Back Home -
Disaster – When I got home I found that the temperature in my
propagating greenhouse had hit 100°c, this had resulted in a number
of plants having “burnt” leaves – not a pretty sight (see picture
to left) and I was far from happy – but either way if I was at work
and not on a day out with Vincent I still would have been caught
Saturday 23rd April
The group – Yorkshire and Humberside Area
The venue – Outwood Memorial Hall, Wakefield
The speaker – Me
The day started with me having to go into work but I was home for
just gone 12 as Vincent Potts was picking me up for 1245hrs. I was
changed and ready for when Vincent arrived (he was 2 minutes
late for the record) then we made our way to pick Derek Telford up
on the way to the meeting place at the Outwood Memorial Hall.
Jeff Rhodes rose and addressed those gathered and then introduced me
and down went the lights, up I got only to find the projector was
not working properly so down I sat as my “roadie” Vincent sorted on
the technical glitch. Now with the projector working I could start
It was not long before the banter started and it took the form of
the 2 Dereks in the front row (Derek Telford and Derek Maitland).
I would just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who
turned up to listen to the ramblings of this grower, I must admit I
am slowly getting to enjoy myself whilst doing these talks.
Michael's next talk is at the
Central Area Meeting on
Saturday 14th. May