The National Begonia Society


2015 Diary

Michael Richardson

Episode 19.   John Hamilton's Open Day 

The Caledonian Tours 2015’ Tour No 6
Saturday 1st August

A little history -
   Over the last couple of years The Scottish Begonia Society Open Day has become somewhat of a pilgrimage to us – not just to see some fantastic flowers and gardens but to renew friendships and socialise with some great people as well. In the past The Scottish Begonia Society's Open Day has been held at some great venues like in 2009 when myself and Les Smith took the scenic route to Willy Muir’s home when they held their Open Day there (in other words we found a different way to get there).   The next year it was held at Drew and Sheena Somerville’s home, and yes we ended up there as well.
   Over the last couple of years John Hamilton’s home has been the venue for their Open Day.
But before we go to Johns we always drop in to see Robert Nelson at his home to check up on him and his plants.

Back to the trip -
   We had to sign off one of our party as “authorised absence unpaid”, as Vincent Potts was putting on a National Begonia Society Bureau at the Chorley Flower Show over Saturday & Sunday to try and recruit some new members. Peter Sourbutts our Society Vice Chairman was going over to help Vincent man the bureau over the weekend as well. A few weeks ago Bellcross had their Open Day on the Saturday and on Sunday Vincent and Robert Bryce put a National Begonia Society Bureau stand up at the Wilmslow one day Flower Show to try and drum up some new members.
   That just left myself and Mr Bryce and Bobby – who is Bobby I hear you ask!!! Well this was a new one for the “travel company” as Bobby was Robert’s dog…. Yes, you read that right we took Robert's dog - as Robert did not want to leave him at home alone as Joan and their son where on holiday.
   I picked Robert and Bobby up at 08:00 but before we left Robert invited me to have a quick look in his greenhouse. Some varieties were opening up nicely but the majority were just starting to open, his plants were slow and they mirrored mine in a way. My main worry is will they be open in time and Robert echoed the same sentiment.
We left Roberts and hit the M6 motorway at about 08:30 and made good time getting to Robert Nelsons for approx. 10:45hrs.

Robert Nelsons -
   As we pulled onto Robert’s driveway another car pulled up behind us it was George Thompson who had also called in before going on to John Hamilton’s.
Robert was at the bottom of his drive when we arrived and on first sight you could tell he was not a happy man or a happy grower at all – he looked a troubled man.
   He told us that his plants were terrible and that he would not be showing at Ayr. When we went round the back to his main greenhouse it became all too evident why he felt like he did. His flowers have not grown properly, and he has suffered from many a fault, I did feel sorry for him because I knew how much effort he had but into his growing this year. His plants have suffered badly due to the very inconsiderate weather conditions that he and the rest of us have experienced this year, cold nights warm days lack of sun light etc.
   When we looked into Robert’s second greenhouse, Robert Bryce saw a flower that he liked which he had never seen before and liked the colour break on it as it was something different, so I went in to check the label in the pot. It was called Marcella (I apologise if the spelling is wrong), please see a picture of it on the right courtesy of Mr Nelson (as I phoned him up the other night and asked him to take it and send it to me). After talking to Robert Nelson about this variety he kindly gave Robert Bryce a cutting of it. Later on we found out George Thompson had raised it, as the saying goes “it’s a small world”
We then went in for a brew, then it turned out that George had beaten Robert 6-2 in a fishing contest earlier in the week. I then tried to console Robert by saying that at least he had his shooting to fall back on, he then said that his shooting was terrible at present as well – that’s x3 of his favourite hobbies all conspiring against him
   Meanwhile Robert N had let Robert B bring Bobby in so he could have a drink with us, much to the distain of Robert’s cats who quickly scarpered and vanished.
After a while Robert took us around the back of his garden to show us his cuttings, and they looked really well – so not all is lost, he could have a great cutting tuber harvest at the end of the year.
Well the visit had come to the end so the five of us including Bobby jumped into our cars and headed to Coalburn and the Master grower himself John Hamilton.

John & Maharia Hamilton and the Scottish Begonia Societies Open Day –
   When we arrived at Johns  the first two growers we met were Tony Shepherdson and Colin Elsworth who had made the journey across from the North East. After a quick chat with regards a rumour I heard about Tony coming down to the National at Shrewsbury to which he confirmed but then said his flowers were slow just like the same predicament facing Robert Bryce and myself at the moment.
   On the side of John’s house were a couple of hanging baskets of red flamboyant’s that looked really eye catching. I found out that John takes cuttings of his flamboyant tubers early in the year and roots them. Then he puts the rooted cuttings straight into position into his type of hanging basket – this is something I will try this next year.
   When I entered Johns greenhouse the first person I met and talked to was Kennedy McQuiston who said he was not happy with his flowers opening – he said his plants and buds were looking great – but when the buds started to open the affects of the weather was causing a number of looped and curled petals and mis-formed small petals (this sounds oh so familiar).
Even Willy Muir complained about how his flowers where opening, and how he had never had so many looped or undeveloped petals and other problems as they opened (it’s starting to sound like a common problem now).
   Robert Bryce had now disappeared with John Hamilton, as you can see by the picture on the right I caught them lurking about in the back greenhouse. It turned out John was showing Robert some new seedling plants and were lost in conversation discussing and looking at them,
   Now at this point my gaze was directed to a hanging basket, hanging from the roof of his main greenhouse. As you can see by the picture on the left - is there nothing this man can’t grow!!!!!!
At this point I ran into the imposing figure that is Ian Donaldson, the current reigning British Cut Bloom Champion. After telling him about a phone conversation I had with John Chiswell in which John told me about a phone conversation he had had with Ian, then it was more about what Ian didn’t say, as when he said his plants were rubbish he winked. That makes me think he is sitting pretty, with a good hand.
   George Thompson was another grower who actually said he was happy with his plants!!!! – trust me for a Scottish grower to say he is happy with his plants and not say they are rubbish or “pish” (I am sure this is the way to spell this word that I hear uttered a lot North of the border) is a near modern day miracle….
Ronnie Walsh was another grower who seemed to be happy with his plants, it will be great to see the one and only Ronnie Walsh come down to Ayr and challenge the so called new kids on the block like Ian Donaldson and Kennedy McQuisten for the British Championship at Ayr this year.
Please see the picture on the left, of two great growers - Ronnie Walsh with John Hamilton.
We also had the pleasure of running into Jim Evans and Andy Paterson who had made the trip down to the Open Day.

A Challenge!!!
   John Hamilton’s greenhouses were spotless resulting Robert Bryce commenting that it’s the tidiest he had ever seen them, I must admit I had to agree. Maybe John is getting ready to take on all comers again next year and is getting his “house in order” as they say.
   Me, personally I would like to see him try and win the British Championship using his own raisings so to speak. That I think has never been tried, done or achieved before!!!!! – He has won everything else so maybe he needs a new challenge.

The Masters kingdom -
   John’s plants were started late and he has just let them grow – in the picture on the right you can see the main part of his greenhouse with plants in flowers. None of his flowers have been tied back to the stems.
His back greenhouse is full of plants in bud for a later show as you can see from the picture on the left,
Johns interconnecting propagating greenhouse which has his hotbox in is full of more plants in bud see picture on the right.
Now running the other side of his propagating greenhouse is an “enclosed walkway” which usually houses his small propagating units that he germinates his seed in when he is hybridising.
At the bottom of this walkway houses his misting unit  that had been cleared of cuttings and just had plants sat on it – see picture on the left.
Now you may be wondering where all his cuttings have gone!!!!! So I went for a look and believe me what follows could shock some growers….
Running down the outside of his main greenhouse are his cold frames – they are in 6x4ft blocks as you can see by the picture on the right. The picture on the left shows what it looks like under a 4ft section of roof. I doubt you could fit piece of paper between x2 cuttings as they are that tightly packed together and there is not a label in sight, that’s right not a label!!!!!
Well time had come to make our farewells and say goodbye, but it’s only for 6 days until we will all meet up again at Ayr for the British Championships.


The Caledonian Tours 2015’ Tour No 7 - forthcoming Ayr Flower Show trip -
   Now I will let you into a little secret and tell you something that will lose any “street cred” I may have had, as my mother is coming to Ayr with me. Yep, when was the last time a Begonia grower took his mother to a show. This is down to Robert Bryce judging and taking his better half Joan with him and Vincent Potts abandoning me to exhibit some plants. That left just me travelling up alone – so my mother made her move…., but oh no that’s not the end of it - She has also told me she is coming to Southport with me and maybe Shrewsbury!!!!

Until next time….


Michael Richardson's Diaries 2015