The National Begonia Society



Michael Richardson's Diary  2016

National Society Cut bloom Champion 2014

Michael's 2015 Diary



2016 Diary Episode 10

Saturday 28th May
If you cast your mind back to last year’s diary I mentioned how I was going to use rain water to water my plants because –

Rain water does not seem to cause stem rot on plants in the garden yet when you use tap water on plants in the greenhouse stem rot can occur. Whether this is down to splashing water on the stem due to careless watering or down to the use of “artificial” chemicals used in tap water.
Rain water is one of the purest sources of water.
Normal rainwater acidity can be very beneficial for plants.
Most plant roots like acid water as it makes the minerals more available at the resulting Ph.
Contains more beneficial nutrients than tap water.
Safeguards -
1.       Now I am also going to try to keep “foreign objects” from going into the water butt by converting an empty plastic container into a funnel. Then I am going to put the funnel into the water butt and stretch a piece of fine mesh over the top of the funnel. The down pipe from the greenhouse will feed water into the top of the funnel where once again the fine mesh netting will act as a fine filter and stop any debris going into the water butt.
2.       The other secret weapon I have up my sleeve is courtesy of Basil Billinger and that is a lump of coal… this will stop the water going “off” before I use it. This is because coal can help purify water as coal grains carry a slight electrical charge on their surface, so they act like tiny magnets attracting other charging contaminants that adhere themselves to the surface of the coal.
3.         And finally I was going to get x2 100 Litre water butts so I can turn the rainwater over quickly.
Well on Friday on the way home from work I picked up x2 100 litres slim line water butts.
Then for a couple of hours I refitted my rainwater system so it will be able to collect debris free rainwater as you can see by the picture to the right.

– remember when I mentioned I had painted Coolglass on the inside of my greenhouse roof this year, well one of the main reasons for this is that it never got washed off into the waterbutts. 

Sunday 29th May – Terry Taskers Scottish Road Trip

Now I am going to start this by saying that I would find out later in the day that I felt like I was actually a chauffeur & guide to a pair of Victorian plant hunters exploring in another country.
Anyway, back to the day itself
The day started off as normal for a trip North by leaving home at 06:30am to meet Terry Tasker and “Dodgy” Dave Weatherby for 7am. The journey North was full of banter between the three of us but as we approached Abington Service Station Dave Weatherby asked if he could have a “comfort break”, so we pulled off the M74 and dropped into the service station. This is where the fun started, I got out of the car in my own unique way and walked round the car  at the same time asTerry and Dave. All I can say is those two made me look the normal one when the three of us hobbled into the services. Since Dave wanted to stop we nominated him to buy the Starbuck cappuccinos, Terry got his drink and said he was going to stretch his legs so Dave and myself sat down, a minute later Dave unexpectedly threw his drink on himself!!!! Terry walked up and I explained what had happened and he casually said that’s why I went for a walk as he always does that…. we then just cracked up laughing at what happened.
Mr. Nelsons
We got to Robert Nelsons for mid-morning and unusually found him dressed down and not ready to go to the meeting. Today he was in his work clothes and in a strange sort of way it did not seem right.
After a quick tour the plant hunters had their lists out and plants where “flying” out of Robert’s greenhouses and stockpiled in their own little areas ready for loading in the boot later.
At this point I must mention that Terry Tasker did seem to spend most of his time taking pictures of Robert's and Margaret’s 3 cats and a 4th one that was “lodging” with them and sending the pictures back to his better half Shirley in England.
The boot of the car was nearly full of plants before we set of for John's home.
Mr. Hamilton’s
We arrived at John's to find him weeding, and our arrival gave him the excuse to stop. It must have been one off the best day’s weather wise I have ever experienced at John,s so we hit the patio furniture and sat down. There was myself Dave W, Terry T, John H and his wife Mhari and it got even better for them when John offered them a beer - So there the 5 of us sat, with them enjoying a cold beer and me with a pot of tea. After a while
John took us down to his greenhouses, all his plants where now in their final pots and starting to move. Oh, remember the robin chicks I mentioned in my last article well I asked John and he said that they all flew the nest.
We went back to sit in the sun and John served up the beers, then a tense wait to see whose nerve broke  first between Terry Tasker and Dave Weatherby. Both of them where holding their “lists” sorry cards close to their chest. The sun beat down and beads of sweat were starting to form on their brows then Terry’s nerve broke first and out came his plant shopping list and passed it to John as this was happening Dave Weatherby also unrolled his shopping list.. John had well and truly been blindsided by the pair of them and it was not long before the three of them disappeared back to the greenhouses. That left Mhari and myself chatting until they returned.
It was fast approaching 16:30hrs and we still had to get to Phil Champion's so Terry and Dave loaded their ill-gotten gains into the back of the car that resembled a miniature rainforest before we said our goodbyes and left.
As we left Dave Weatherby was the last member of the party to go through John's side gate and he literally pulled it off it's hinges, myself and Terry were now in stitches when John appeared, Dave tried to say that there was only one screw holding the entire gate on. It was an act of sheer wanton vandalism, at this rate we will never get an invite back.
We left as quick as possible to avoid any more embarrassment with John still holding the gate for Dodgy Dave “the gate wrecker” Weatherby.
The journey to Mr. Champions -
We left  Coalburn towards the M74 and headed south and back to Gretna Green, at this point Terry tried to put Phil Champions post code in the cars modern satnav system (p.s. the satnav won) as we watched the hilarious battle that raged on between the Satnav and Terry I flew past the junction I was looking for, that meant we had to cross the border back into England for a couple of miles before we could come off and head back into Scotland and come off at the Gretna junction and follow the signs for the Dumfries bypass. We followed that road until we hit the A711 and then the A710 that led us down to the Solway Coast road and Phil Champions abode.
Mr. Champions
– (see the picture the left, Phil is flanked by Terry to the right and “Dodgy” Dave to the left)
We did not know what to expect to find at Phil’s since he quit the rat race and moved from Reading in the South of England to the Solway Coast in Scotland in February. It’s a bit drastic to immigrate to another country to grow a better flower but you have to admire his dedication to improve his growing.On arrival the views to the front and back of Phil’s cottage where spectacular and to the right I have took a picture to the right of his neighbors….My jaw hit the floor when I saw the side of his greenhouse (picture to the left) let alone the sight that met us when we went inside. Most of his staging was up and his plants where well away, so much so he is still planning on showing at Shrewsbury and Ayr flower shows this year as you can see by the picture to the right.
Running the full length across the back of his greenhouse was the mother of all hotboxes, but Phil’s version did not have sand or heating cables but an electric blanket as you can see by the picture to the right.
Terry asked at this point where were the wings and fuselage that went with the propeller that he was using as a fan as you can see by the picture to the left. Phil then warned us that when he fires up the fan the whole greenhouse shakes!!! So we all held onto something and he switched it on, bloody hell the whole greenhouse did not half rattle so he switched it off.
One of Phil’s tricks that caught our eye was the use of laminated black A4 sheets of paper that were pegged to the back of his pots where he was trying to get the plant stem to grow forward on itself and not wooden boards painted black (you can see what I mean by the picture to the right).

The journey home -
We left Phil’s at approx. 20:30 and hit the accelerator home, we got to car park where Dave and Terry had left their car at just after 22:00hrs and then the task of unloading all their ill-gotten gains began. Once they were happy they had sorted out whose plants were whose we parted company.
I walked through my front door at 2300hrs – A trip of 505 miles – and straight to my bed. I must admit I wasn’t the sharpest tool at work the following day.
I did find out during a conversation with Ian Donaldson a week or so later that if we had come off the M74 at Moffet we could have saved up to 50 miles on the journey – but the fight between the Satnav and Terry well made up for the additional travelling time.

Friday 3rd June – Dedicated to some crazy Scottish men

I would just like to bring to everyone’s attention the following crazy growers who each try and put on a display at this time of year at Gardening Scotland - Bob Robertson and Robert Nelson.
They do not have commercial greenhouses like Blackmore & Langdon's, who display at the early shows like Chelsea that were just a week or so earlier – they are just growers like you and me with greenhouses in their “back gardens” – and all this to try and recruit new members.
Tuesday 7th June

I never thought I would say this but yippee it rained – yep its 8 days since it has rained, that in itself is some sort of record around here anyway. So my rainwater butts were beginning to fill with water to use for my plants.
Wednesday 8th June

Today I went through all my plants in the main greenhouse and pinched out any buds that I could see as well as rubbing out any side shoots that had started to appear.
One thing I will say is they are without doubt the “shortest” plants I have ever grown, so much so that I have not had to stake any yet. The last time I saw plants that looked like this was at Willy Muir’s home when he held the Scottish Begonia Society Open Day in 2007 as you can see by the picture to the left, and myself and late great friend and traveling partner Les Smith made the trip up (as you can see by the picture to the right someone caught the pair of us mooching room Willy’s coldframes). I would be more than happy to be able to put a flower on top like he did as well.

Thursday 9th June
I filled my water tubs in the greenhouses with rainwater as you can see by the picture  to the left so from now on all my plants will be watered using “clean” rainwater.
Then I went through the rest of my plants in my middle greenhouse pinching out any buds that I could see as well as rubbing out any side shoots starting to appear in the quest of filling some boards at Southport Flower Show.

Mid-June weather update – At the end of May the BBC weather report said we were in for a heat wave in June but on 11th June they are stating that this June could be one of the wettest on record up here – I think I will be better by using a pine cone and a lump of seaweed to forecast the weather, I certainly cannot do any worse than what’s on the television.
Thursday 17th June
Went through all my plants aimed for the National and checked the stage of growth of the buds – and considering the following;
9 days away until its 50 days to the National.
Paying close attention to varieties like Tequila Sunrise, Tom Brownlee and Colin Hamilton.
15 days away until it's 44 days to the National,
All other buds were taken off, that should ensure my bud size is near as damn it 28mm across.

Wednesday 22nd June -
Today my order of Amblyseius Cucumeris arrived from Ladybird Plant Care, these predators are a precautionary measure that I use against as the dreaded scourge that is Tarsonemid Mite, as the saying goes – better safe than sorry.
So that night after tea I went in to my greenhouses and hung a number of sachets on the leaves of my plants. 

Back by popular demand -
Contentious Corner
The rights to claim compensation - (Lighthearted thought)
What!!!! I hear you all splutter once again into your brew….
Have you ever “taken delivery” of a cutting, tuber or plant and kept, cared and nurtured it for months only to find it’s a different colour, type and variety then expected!!!!
Well here are two ways to settle this issue –
Keep the unexpected variety you have got as a settlement payment then gratefully except the right variety from the guilty party.
Go to guilty party’s greenhouse and pick a plant.
Before you all try and stick my head on top of a pike this is only a bit of fun and a lot of tongue in cheek humour.
Me…. I have a notice saying that any plants taken from these premises are done so at the takers own risk….

Unitl next time….


Michael's 2016 Diary