The National Begonia Society



Michael Richardson's Diary  2016

National Society Cut bloom Champion 2014

Michael's 2015 Diary


2016 Diary Episode 11

My Sulphur Fume burner is hung up in my main greenhouse and has been set up with a timer so it comes on for 2 hours every night. Since I have had this item of equipment I have never suffered from mildew in this greenhouse. 

Saturday 25th June
I developed a case of “itchy feet” earlier in the week so I got hold of Terry Tasker and “Dodgy” Dave Weatherby to see if they were around this weekend, and it so happened they were both in on Saturday. Mr Bryce then got a call to see if he was free for a joy ride over to Southport.
After finishing work I headed straight over to Blackburn to pick Robert up at 12:20ish (I was only 20 or so minutes late). On arrival he did the honourable thing and made a brew, then we had a quick look round his greenhouses whilst Robert took a cutting off a plant for Terry Tasker.
My National Cut Bloom Champion prediction last year was bang on the money and once again I will warn you all that Mr Bryce has stated these are the best looking plants he has grown for many a year.
Then we set off to Southport and Dave Weatherbys home was first on the agenda.
It was a beautiful sunny day at Dave’s and he had a couple of big fans going in his greenhouses he stated this weather is the norm!!! – When I left Trafford Park at Manchester it was persisting down as they say, when I shot passed the Heywood Junction on the M56 on the way to Roberts it was gloomy and starting to rain. I have had to keep my doors shut at night as the temperature is dropping out (side vents are open), and I have been leaving the doors shut during the day over the last week as the temperature in the greenhouse is hovering just above 60, and now and again it nearly touches 70.
I will not give too much away but considering this is his second year of growing Begonias (does not include the decades he grew and showed his prizes roses) – at least he saw the light and has started to grow a proper flower now, but don’t tell Monty Don that!!!! let’s leave him growing in the dark ages – However I will say myself and Robert were shocked in what we saw…. Not with his 1st greenhouse which  had the plants in that were destined for the 20 pot class at Southport or his 2nd greenhouse which contained his cuttings and cutting tubers or his first attempt at about 40 cut blooms in his main greenhouse but approx. 9 pot plants he stated that he was growing for “fun”!!!! Robert quickly told him they were good enough to go to Ayr Flower Show if he got the leaves out of the top to give the flowers room to crown the pot.
After a long and extensive chat on all aspects of growing it was time to leave and head for Terry Tasker.
We then followed Dave to the other side of Southport to Terry Tasker's home where we were greeted by the man himself who was waiting for us.
He took us through to his greenhouses, in his main greenhouse down one side he had all his plants for Ayr which had had all their buds taken and the plants stopped. The opposite side had his plants for Southport.  In his other greenhouse he had a lot of cuttings and a little section of plants without labels that he was allowing to flower in order to recognize the variety and label them accordingly.
Time soon passed and we had to leave as Robert was going out for a meal that night.

Thursday 30th June
It is 44 days to the National Flower Show so all my plants that I had aimed at this show had to have their buds taken. Just like last year I measured all my buds on each plant individually –

  If the bud was 28mm across the plant was stopped by nipping out the growing tip of the plant.
If the bud was over 28mm across I leave the growing tip intact with the aim of slowing down the bud growth until it comes in to line with regards the size of bud I require, then the plant is stopped.
If the bud was smaller than 28mm across, then the plant is moved up to the warmest part of the greenhouse and stopped. Hopefully this will accelerate the growth a little and give it a chance to catch up.
As well as taking the bud the plants had their first feed into the pot – a full strength feed of Chempak No3. 

Wednesday 6th July
It’s now 44 days to Southport Flower Show so I have cobbled together as many small plants as possible that looked half decent and measured the buds and stopped the plants.
When they got their next watering it was done with Chempak No3 at full strength. 

Thursday 7th July –
Potted up about 20 cuttings from one of my small Shankey propagators and also moved outside another wave of well rooted cuttings from my propagating greenhouse.

Sunday 10th July
Today Robert Bryce, Terry Tasker, Dave Weatherby and myself headed north and a short hop over the border into Scotland to Gretna Green then we did a dog leg left off the M74 to the A75 and headed to Kirkcudbright and the home of Ian Donaldson's. As Terry and Dave had never been to Ian’s, little did they know I had already warned him to hide his better varieties just in case they brought their plant wish lists with them again.
Ian did request we phoned him as we got of the motorway so he could start breakfast or at least his better half Linda could. Phil Champion got wind of a full breakfast being done and you guessed it he was there as well when we arrived.
On our arrival and after the introductions were done Ian took us round the back of his house to his greenhouses.

His 1st was his smallest greenhouse which he used for propagating as well as growing some seedlings and this year’s cuttings to flower as you can see by the picture to the right.
Plants in his coldframe drew a lot of attention and I asked Terry to pose to give you some perspective with regards an idea of size etc as you can see by the picture to the left. Ian also told us they were only in a 4inch pot and that at this moment in time there is already a cutting tuber at approx. 1.5inch in diameter at the bottom of the cutting.
At this point Linda called us all in for breakfast, and when we had finished Ian took us to his main greenhouse one at a time. As we were paraded in and one at a time we finished with a look at a pot plant he is growing which Linda had nicknamed “Brutus”, I will not spoil it but Ian is growing it a little different than normal.
Well after waiting patiently with a nice fresh pot of tea courtesy of Linda it was finally my turn for the royal tour of his main greenhouse.
After a good discussion that covered many subjects and topics with regards his plants -

Ian places a clothes peg just under the knot from the “ribbon” that ties his flower stem to the plants support, so if need be he can slide it up to lift the ribbon and in turn it lifts the flower up etc (as you can see by the picture on the left).
Another thing Ian did a little different to what I had seen before was how big he let his buds grow before he put a plate behind the flower, to protect developing the bud he placed synthetic cotton wool between the bud and leaves (as you can see by the picture on the right).
What Ian looks for is the thickness of the developing bud so it literally pushes the guard petals open, rather than a long bud with no depth to it, as you can see by the picture to the left showing what I mean with this bud of Tom Brownlee.

Ian left the greenhouse and kindly allowed me to take a few pictures.

After saying our farewells to Linda we then left for Phil Champion's home complete with Ian Donaldson following us just to sample some homemade cake that Phil's  wife Judith was rumoured to be baking for us.
On arrival we went straight into his greenhouse and as you can see by the picture F to the left you can see them inspecting his plants.
Phil did mention that he was considering showing a 12 board at Ayr, Shrewsbury and Southport.
Ian at this point had showed Dave Weatherby how he takes a bud, because when Ian selects his bud he also “rubs” off the bracs and side buds all at the same time – Seeing the bud in this naked form, in a daft way made it look weird.

After a lengthy discussion covering numerous points of Begonia growth Judith called us in, there was food laid out on the table so we all tucked in apart from Ian who tried the cake. After a while Ian left for home, then it was our turn to say farewell to Phil & Judith and make our journey home.

Tuesday 12th July
After I got home from work I went through all my plants in my main greenhouse and inspected each plant one at a time –

For any side shoots starting to grow at the leaf - stem axis, if there are any then I just rub them out.
If there are any new basal shoots that have come up then I pinch out the new growing point and just leave the new leaves to help the process of photosynthesis.
Gently bend any “stray” leaves that are close to the growing bud.
I “rub” off the bracs from under the flower bud.
Pinch out the side buds.
Then for the 1st time I used some dacron to protect any buds that were opening in close proximity to any leaf.
It took me a good 5 hrs to go through all those plants, now it’s down to the bud to get growing. 

Sunday 17th July
It was 11.15am in Newcastle, the sky was blue and the sun was beating down and Robert Bryce and I were creeping up Clavering Way looking for number 5 and the home of Tony Shepherdson.
On arrival we were introduced to Tony’s wife and after the introductions going through to his garden and greenhouses we found out that they had both retired on the Friday before.
As you can see by the picture to the right his plants looked really impressive and he had a lot of thick buds that were starting to push the guard petals open, a sure sign that he had a lot of petal in the bud. At this point Colin Elsworth appeared as if by magic to join us and entered into the discussion on growing and what varieties are the best for cut blooms. I just had to take this picture of a monster bud of Beryl Rhodes.
We went into the conservatory for a brew and a bite to eat and Colin and Tony then told us of their previous career at growing and showing Jap Chrysanthemums.
We then left in convoy to Colin Elsworth's who lives about 5 minutes away and 500ft higher up as Tony informed us. On arrival we met Colin’s wife, his two grandchildren and the children’s family dog. Earlier in the year Colin had sprayed his begonias with something that disagreed with foliage, but his buds looked ok as well as the flowers, as he had at least 4 Tequila Sunrise where the oyster had broken and the flower was ready to develop.
We were then invited into his new house he had just had built for a drink. It was a beautiful building and we must have spent a good couple of hours discussing a wide range of topics. Before we knew it was nearly 5pm so we said goodbye to Tony, Colin and his wife and made our way home. 

Tuesday 19th July
The weather forecasted for today meant trouble – so before I went to work I flooded the greenhouse floor opened everything up and dropped all the plants on the top staging to ground level.
I was sat at work with the outside temperature hitting 33oc /92of, when I left work at 14:00hrs I feared the worse. On arrival home the first thing to knock me for six was my plants that were in front of the conservatory that I had moved outside to make room for my seedlings. As you can see by the picture to the right they had been badly affected by the sheer heat of the sun. Strangely however my cuttings to the right of them as you can see by the picture to the left had pretty much escaped untouched.
Luckily I just had a couple of plants with sun damaged leaves across my 2 greenhouses, and in my propagating greenhouse you could see some sun burn damage on the odd seedling and some cuttings that are just waiting to root in small pots of coir.

Wednesday 20th July
Another day that hit around 30oc / 86of as forecasted so before I went to work I made sure everything was watered and I flooded the greenhouse floor to keep the humidity up and try and keep the air cool – well that thought made me feel a little better when I left and had to leave my beloved plants behind. On return I soaked the greenhouse floor thoroughly again and they seemed to have come through another day unscathed.

Thursday 21st July
It was to have rained last night and this morning but instead a beautiful blue sky and at 6am it was already at 16oc / 61of .
Robert Bryce, Marion Sycamore and myself had a drive down to Ball Colegrave’s Open Day where we joined up with a few others – Gary & Joy Dando, Peter & June Sourbutts, Barry & Pauline Walker and John Winfield.
We were the first to arrive, and as we signed in the woman on reception explained that the hot weather they had recently experienced had taken its toll on a number of varieties and that included the Begonias. We got a brew and started to mooch through the 1st greenhouses, which led us to the 2nd greenhouse that for want of a better description was made up of themed rooms using different varieties of plants. It must have been hot as the glass had been taken out of one side of this massive greenhouse. Then we looked around the trial beds and there at the end was a seating area and that’s where I sat with Marion talking whilst Robert carried on walking talking pictures as he went. The picture K to the right just gives you an idea what was there.  After a while June Sourbutts appeared and joined us not long after everyone was sat and chatting the shade as the sun beat down.
Peter Sourbutts and I went looking at some trailing begonias as you can see by the pictures   to the left & right which did not look too bad considering the temperatures they had endured without shade or additional care. Not long after we all caught up and went for dinner. After another look round we headed back to the car to get some plants out that Robert had brought down for a couple of people, we then said our goodbyes and hit the road home.
We hit the other side of Manchester and where approx 35 mile from home where we hit traffic and it took us 2hrs and 45 minutes to travel that distance home. At least for once Robert had the additional 30+minute drive further to his house.

Saturday 23rd July
This afternoon I started to put backing plates on some of my plants. At present I had only put stakes in my plants to stick a label on to tell me of bud sizes and dates when the bud was stopped, as I cannot see the point of tying the plant to it if its growing straight up on a strong stem.
With letting the bud grow bigger I found out in most cases the flower bud had cleared the leaf canopy hence reducing the number of leaves that needed cutting off to get the plate behind the flower.
So I –

Cleared away any leaves if I had to from around the flower – and removed any dacron I had used to protect the developing bud.
Placed the ribbon around the base of the flower where the stem meets it and tied it off at the back of the stake.
Just as Ian Donaldson did I placed a peg or slider just under the knot.
Then I carefully slid the backing plate down behind the flower.  

Sunday 24th July
Mr Bryce had arranged a trip to John Hamilton’s today to have a look at the plants he had grown to use on the Society bureau stand display at Ayr Flower Show. We had a new travelling companion today none other than John Chiswell, he had made the 3.5hr journey from Somerset to my house to join us on this trip North. On his arrival, and this may come as a shock to some, I was sociable and made him a brew and some toast and marmalade before we left for Mr Bryce’s.
On arrival at Roberts he gave John a tour of his set up showing him some interesting seedlings that he had coming into flower.
On our journey north we dropped into Robert Nelsons to touch base with him.
We then left for John Hamilton’s with Mr Nelson coming with us too. We arrived to find he had repaired the gate from our last visit and it was now “Weatherby proof”.
We found John hard at work in his greenhouse. Now with seeing his plants at the beginning of the year and how they were playing second fiddle to the house renovations due to the storm damage that happened at the end of last year to say he had pulled of a near miracle to get them to this stage would be a slight understatement.
He had a number of plants running as cut blooms and had some fantastic looking buds breaking open as you can see by the picture to the left showing a bloom of Colin Hamilton with none of the white flecks that usually grow out of it as it develops and the picture on the right shows a fantastic Joyce Milhuka opening.

His pot plants had a lot of growing to do but had a lot of potential as you can see by the picture to the left.
John also had a number of flambouyant’s in tubs that he was growing for the society stand as well as about 5 tubs of a “seedling” which had great potential with a flower that had a slightly unusual shade that went well with the colour of the foliage. John was planning to let someone “win” the chance of naming it at Ayr flower show (see picture to the right). 

Wednesday 27th July

This afternoon after work I managed to finish plating the rest of my flowers in the main greenhouse as you can see by the picture to the left.


Thursday 28TH July
Picture this, I am sat at work when my mobile text alert goes off on checking the message its none other than Dave Weatherby sending me pictures of a flower of Colin Hamilton at just shy of 10inchs….
That brings a new tactic in to gamesmanship – Psychological warfare!!!! He might as well have parked his truck outside my house and played the Spice Girls at full volume to upset my plants…. 

Saturday 30th July
Picture this, its 10:11am I am sat at work and my mobile text alert goes off and its Dave Weatherby playing mind games again – he sent the picture to the left to me – with the words “how do you get six of these in them 6 bloom boxes…….”
I don’t call him “Dodgy” Dave Weatherby for nothing.


Until next time….


Michael's 2016 Diary