The National Begonia Society



On the road again
Michael Richardson
Visit to Society President & Membership Secretary Terry Tasker 

It was at the North West Area Meeting on Friday 7th. June when I arranged to pay Terry Tasker a visit at his home on Sunday 16th., accompanied by Mr Bryce.
This was the only suitable date as we had already arranged to cross the border for a day out visiting Ian Donaldson and Phil Champion's homes on Sunday 23rd. and following that it will be bud taking time and also Terry is having a new knee fitted.

Terry Taskers -
The first part of this article is about Terry's love for Rex, Canes & Species etc side of the begonia family.
Terry Tasker once held the National Collection of Begonia Rex – he had in total with Canes & Shrubs 931 different Begonia’ – 931 – unbelievable when you consider the limited amount of space he had.

So I will open this article with a picture to the left of our National Begonia Society President Terry Tasker holding a good looking plant of Namur.
What surprised me was that Terry uses straight Levingtons M2 Pot & Bedding Compost to pot his Rex’s / Species in. Now I thought that would be too “heavy” and not airy enough for this sort of “plant” to grow in and that he would be using some weird and wonderful homemade growing medium concoction that you read about other growers using when it comes to this side of the begonia family.

So I will start with a hanging basket of B.solananthera, which was in Terry’s main greenhouse hanging above his double tuberous begonias as you can see in the picture to the right.
The rest of them are currently housed in his second greenhouse as you can see by the 4 pictures running from left to right -

1.    Section of his greenhouse showing his plants

2.    I must admit I do like Curly Fireflush, not only is it a terrific vibrant colour but I love the long red hairs that cover the stems etc as you can see by the picture of a plant that Terry had amongst his plants .

3.    The x4 Emerald Giant cuttings in the picture will be sprayed with Urea up to 3 times a day and as Terry says will grow very quickly, resulting in good size plants that then can be used on the North West Area bureau stand at Southport Flower Show.

4.    Shows a picture of x3 cuttings of Helen Lewis. This variety was thought lost until a lady brought a plant of it and entered it in one of the classes at Southport Flower Show a couple of years ago. When Terry Tasker saw it and could not believe what he was seeing on the show bench before him. All I will say is the silver haired wily old fox used all his guile & charm and managed to get a cutting off it. He has propagated it and is planning to spread it around the members to help prevent any chance of losing it to cultivation again.



You can see in the picture to the left his begonia Rex propagation programme is in full swing with a number of cuttings at all stages of growth and once again potted using Levingtons M2 Pot & Bedding compost.



Now for something totally different to finish the first part of this article – on top of a plant of David Blains something unusual was growing from the top of a leaf as you can see in the picture to the right. Now Terry will cut the stem just below the leaf and plant it like a leaf cutting and the new plants will come from the strange growth that already has started.

Part 2 Double Tuberous Begonias
Now I will start off in his main greenhouse with this small orange flowing hanging basket. It is a variety called Mrs Bilkey. I have heard the name of this plant being mentioned on more than one occasion when we travel North of the border to Scottish meetings as a number of growers have requested a cutting of it from Terry. I have seen the plant just growing in a pot down the outside of Terry's greenhouse before but cannot remember seeing it in flower so this was a pleasant surprise for me as you can see in the picture to the left.

When I entered his main greenhouse I was surprised that he had two fans going, one at either end of the greenhouse to keep the air moving and the temperature down (see picture to the right) especially when I still have bubble insulation up and still no use or need of a fan yet.

The following pictures running from left to right below are:

1.    Full view running down his main greenhouse

2.    Left hand side view of his main greenhouse

3.    Right hand side view of his main greenhouse

4.    The liquid in the tubs for the curious is Vitax 141 – now, I for one do not use a 141 at this time of year on my adults as I would usually give them a touch of this in late April or early May when my plants go into their final pots to get the roots developed quickly. Also other growers might feed it at this time to help the plant with its bud initiation. However I have never seen the point of this as the only time a plant does not produce a bud for me is if it grows blind at the beginning. However to get round this issue I wait till it throws a side shoot then I let the side shoot grow into a main stem and if you do it early enough in the year you can still get a flower from it.


Terry has also just potted all his adults up using Levingtons M2 Pot & Bedding compost and as you can see in the picture to the left for the first time he has not added any grit to the mix.


One thing that struck you straight away was just how tall Terry's plants were and the size of the gap between the leaf joints on the stem as you can see by the x2 pictures below – however over the years that I have been going to Terry’s his plants have always been tall compared to mine or other growers like Phil Champions.


Now we all have our little quirks, for example:
Bob Bryce crocks his pots like they did back in medieval times.
I myself put broken bits over house slate on the top of pots to encourage the roots to fill all the pot and also stop the medium drying out to fast.
Ian Donaldson's OCD approach to growing.
John Hamilton does not bother with plant labels.
Terry Taskers quirk is that he cuts leaves away from his plants so he can see the tops of the pots so he knows when its time to water and has easy access to water them - however sometimes he gets carried away and there was a couple of plants with just x2 sets of leaves at the top of them and to be honest he got a bit of “leg pulling” over this as some of his plants looked like a miniature palm tree with just a few leafs at the top. 

Between Terry's x2 Greenhouses he has bridged the gap that runs between them with a false roof and within this enclosed area is where he has his hotbox (which has an insulated base, then he has filled it with sand and sandwiched a heating cable running through it) / propagator units (just covers the hot box with lids and voila he has transformed it into a propagator) - as you can see by the x3 pictures below –


At the far end of his hotbox / propagator he has and uses x2 water propagator units to root his cuttings as you can see in the x2 pictures below


However in the near future Terry is going to switch back to a “misting unit system” to root his cuttings on just like he used to use when he held the National Collection of Begonia Rex.
As you can see by the picture below left, at present he is growing tomatoes with his grandson but soon his “mister unit” will be built here,  on a base approx. 3ft high using “breeze blocks” with a base and a bed of sand and a water pipe standing proud of the sand bed with a leaf on it so that when it dries it mists the sand base area.” I have used a picture below right of John Hamilton's misting bed to give you an idea what one looks like in full production.

I have seen what happens at John Hamilton’s, he has just left cuttings lying on the sand bed and that’s it and they root technically in the air without being in any medium what’s so ever. Ever since I first saw John Hamilton's I have fancied building one myself but it’s where to fit it issue that has stopped me.


When they start rooting in the water propagators Terry pots them straight up into Levingtons M2 Pot & Bedding compost and then sits them in his second greenhouse to get their roots firmly in their pots as you can see in the picture below –


 To finish

Some miscellaneous pictures of Terrys garden running from left to right below:

     1.    Would you believe it another begonia grower who has a corkscrew hazel.
A fantastic group of harts tongue ferns.
A perfect lawn


Now Terry has not had his Hostas attacked by slugs or snails this year because a Mallard Duck (see the picture below) has adopted the Tasker family and took up residency in his garden. Now I could see it eating slugs as they have no shell but snails are another matter but when I asked Terry this he said the duck just pecks the snails shell with his beak until the shell breaks and bon appetit theyre guzzled down.

 I would like to thank Terry Tasker for his hospitality and friendship.. 

     Until next time…. 


Articles by Michael Richardson

 Visit to The Central Area Representative & Area Meetin g Spring 2019
Scottish Begonia Society Meeting spring 2019       South West journey Spring 2019

Growers in the Spotlight - North & South of the Border   5 Articles
Judging - My first experience      2016 Diary