The National Begonia Society


2015 Diary

Michael Richardson

Episode 15.   Taking the buds

Apologises -
Sorry for the delay in publishing this instalment, but our Web Editor the one and only Brian Simmons went on holiday, in future we should have to think about banning him from taking holidays or restrict him just to weekend breaks only.

(note from the Editor - All work and no play makes this keyboard tickler a discontented old man.
Mike has got his own back by sending me an extra long contribution).
I am very grateful to Dave Coates for looking after my greenhouse whilst I was away.

Sunday 14th June -
   The weather summary so far this year summed up in five words – cold, wet, cloudy & miserable.
So far this year the number of what I would class as warm days has not reached 14.
My plants look cold and they also seem to me like they have stood still, I don’t think I can do anything more than what I have done. So it’s just a matter of time waiting and hoping for a good spell of warm weather.

Monday 15th June –
It is now 11 days until its 50 days out to the National show at Shrewsbury Flower Show. (Now I have to make every plant count so I have to go the extra mile during the run up to the time of bud take).
Varieties like Tequila Sunrise need a good 50 days + to ensure you get the centre out properly.
The same goes for other varieties like Tom Brownlee and Colin Hamilton, however Colin Hamilton has the following trait in that it starts with small white spots on the petals but the longer it grows then they disappear so the petals become clear of them.
   This means I have to check each plant to ensure the bud on the plant is at the right size at bud take. I do this by checking and disbudding all the buds that look like they will be too big at my various stopping times for the different varieties.
As my target is as follows –
Bud at the right size of 28mm –
    • At the correct stopping date depending on the variety I am looking for a bud that is 28mm across
Bud on the small side coming up to taking the bud –
    • One way I get round this issue is taking the bud early and stopping the plant by taking out the growing point of the plant. By doing this you are putting all the plants energy into the bud, so it will grow quicker and hopefully get close to my starting bud size of 28mm across at the time of what would be that varieties stopping date.
Bud on the large size –
    • On occasion I usually find that I have a bud that is bigger that 28mm getting close to my bud stopping date, and the next bud is way too small to take. My solution to help me get round this problem is as follows.
For example - I could have a bud at 35mm across at my bud stopping date, so its 7mm too big. At this point I don’t stop the plant and I don’t take off the 2nd much smaller bud, I let them both grow on for another 7 days before I look at stopping the plant. Hopefully this will slow the growth of the big bud down long enough so it’s now at the same stage as a bud took at 28mm.

Monday 22nd June -
 I have fed all plants earmarked for the National Championships at Shrewsbury with Chempak No 4 feed at full strength due to the following reasons -
    • I don’t think the weather will improve in the short term as it continues to be cold, cloudy and wet. This will result in the plant being watering less as they will not taking up much water up due to the lack of sun and warmth.
    • Less chances of watering means it’s harder to get feed into the pots and plants.
• They are in need of a feed at this stage as
Back to School part 3 – Why Chempak No 4 (N:15 P:15 K:30)
What does potash do for the plant and flower!!! –
First the plant -
    • Stomatal Activity (water use) – plants depend on Potash to regulate the opening and closing of stomata’s…the pores through which leaves exchange carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapour, and oxygen (O2) with the atmosphere. Proper functioning of stomata’s is essential for Photosynthesis, water and nutrient transport and plant cooling
    • Transport of sugars – Sugars produced in photosynthesis must be transported through the phloem to other parts of the plant for utilization and storage.
• Water and Nutrient Transport – Potash also plays a major role in the transport of water and nutrients throughout the plant.
    • Protein Synthesis – Potash is required for every major step of protein synthesis
    • Starch Synthesis – The enzyme responsible for the synthesis of starch is activated by Potash.
    • Helps the plant build up a tolerance to drought.
    • Helps the plant build up a resistance against disease.
    • Helps the plant build a stronger stem and plant
    • Improves the plants general overall health
Second the bloom / flower –
    • Flower texture and Colour!!!!!!!
Now for interesting fact –
    • No matter how much I have researched this subject there are scientists out there who argue that Potash actually does very little for the flower and it's more to do with the overall general culture and welfare of the plant itself!!!!

Friday 26th June – it’s D Day – 50 days to the National at Shrewsbury Flower Show –
(Please be aware I need every plant /bloom to count as I don’t grow enough plants to play the percentage game so I have to go the extra mile at this point of the season)

   I inspected the following varieties for the size of the bud that I base all my timings on – 28mm –
    • Tequila Sunrise – x7 ranging from 25mm to 32mm
    • Tom Brownlee – x4 ranging from 26mm to 32mm
    • Colin Hamilton – x2 at 24 & 28mm
    • Alexandria – x6 ranging from 25mm to 34mm
I have managed to get them to cover the show date with a slight range in sizes just in case the weather changes –
    • If it is to warm, the flower develops faster resulted in them “going over” before the show date.
   • If it stays to cool, the flower develops to slowly resulting in them not being fully open for the show.
As you can see by the picture on the left you can see how I measure each bud and depending on how big the bud is results in the following action being taken –
    • 28mm – bingo, spot on – stop the plant (pic on right)
    • 25 to 32 mm – stop the plant to cover unpredicted weather conditions
   • 32+mm – depending on how big the bud is how long I WILL leave the growing tip on the plant and any other bud growing as I want to try and slow down the bud development until it measures approx. the same as the other buds on other plants of the same variety. Then I will stop the plant (see pic to the left).
    • Buds of 20mm I will stop now as this will hopefully result in them reaching approx. 28mm for varieties whose timings are between 45 and 40 days.
    • Anything smaller than 20mm will run into Southport Flower show timings

As you can see from the picture on the left – a plant before stopping
The picture on the right shows – a plant after it has been stopped.


Information recording –
   Now to help me remember what I have measured and the dates stopped or in some cases not stopped I record the following information on a piece of yellow insulation tape and attach it to the top of the stake / cane that the plant is tied to (in brackets I have put the actual info I record if the bud is at 28mm) –
    • Size of bud (28mm)
    • Stopped or Not stopped (stopped)
    • Date taken or measured (26/6)
    • Number of days from the show date (50 days)
If the bud is not stopped in the brackets above it will show N/Stopped and the followed info put at the bottom of the above info
    • + the additional days the plant has been delayed from stopping (+5)
    • Date plant is stopped (01/07)

Tuesday 30th June
All I can say is be-careful what you wish for.
The sun came out to play today, I got out of work and the outside temperature had hit 25°c , when I got home the temperature in my main greenhouse had topped out at 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
So I went to B&Q and got a 10ft piece of wooden roof batten and some very fine mesh.
    • When I got home I laid the mesh out on the lawn and placed the batten down along the edge of the mesh and using an industrial stapler, stapled the mesh to the length of batten.
    • Then I took all the glass out of the back side of greenhouse and drilled x4 equally spaced holes through the top of the back of the greenhouse gutter.
    • I then placed the batten along the underside of the gutter and using a cable tie I threaded through the hole in the gutter and threaded back through a small hole that I had made in the mesh just under the batten and tightened up the cable tie. I did this x4 times resulting in the batten fitting up tight and flush to the bottom of the gutter.
    • Then the mesh just fell and draped down the side of the greenhouse.
    • Then I pulled the mesh taught and clipped to the sides – this will hopefully keep any critters out.
This now means if you take inconsideration the double door which is netted and the louvre vents that are also netted then roughly I would say a good 50% of my main greenhouse is now netted.
I also put x2 deep trays (each tray holds 10 Litres of water) under the staging on both sides of the greenhouse and filled them with 90% water and a 10% Domestos solution - to stop and deter anything wanting to use them to live or reproduce in (P.Sourbutts told me about this). This will hopefully help me keep the humidity levels up.

Wednesday 1st July-
   I left for work at 0530hrs and the temperature was at 22°c  already, when I came out of work at 1430hrs it had reached 33°c   that’s approx. 92°f.
   When I got home I found the temperature in my main greenhouse was at 93°f.
That’s fantastic news as it makes all yesterday’s work worthwhile – as the aim is to make the inside temperature be equal to the outside temperature.
I personally can do no more.

Sunday 5th July –
   I went through all my plants for the National with the specific purpose of gently opening up the top of the plants by gently “reflexing” the leaves back to ensure the bud is clear. This will hopefully prevent any damage to the bud by way of the edge of a leaf
As you can see from the picture on the right, the bud of Tequila Sunrise it is free of any petals

Plants for Southport –
   All the plants that I have pencilled for the Southport Flower Show have been fed with a full strength feed of Chempak No 3 which is a balanced feed with a formula of N:20 P:20 K:20. This has been done for the following x2 reasons –
    • They have been in their pots for 7 weeks.
    • We are 14 days to the target date of 50 days out from Southport Flower Show.
    • They are in need of a balanced feed as the “goodness” is nearly all gone out of the pot.
    • And we have not had the weather where the plant is taking up much liquid hence you are watering the pot less. So rightly or wrongly they are getting a balanced feed whilst I still have a few good weeks to go and I can give them a good watering.

Tuesday 23rd June -
 I went through all the plants for Southport Flower Show and –
    • De-budded and rubbed out any side shoots on plants that have already been stalked and tied and slated.
    • Any more plants that looked half decent were staked, tied and top dressed.

Thursday 2nd July –
   It's 50 days to Southport Flower Show so I have been through the plants I had left and stopped a few plants with small buds because in another 6 days these buds will be around the 28mm mark.
Everything else will be done as I have already written down and tried to explain with the plants for the National Flower Show.

Saturday 4th July –
   All the plants that I have earmarked for the Southport Flower Show have been fed with a feed of Chempak No 4.

Tuesday 7th July –
It’s now 45 days to Southport Flower Show and just like I did with the plants earmarked for the National all the buds have been measured and taken.

Cutting enigma update -
   Would you believe that this is that cutting I took through winter and never produced a tuber just a 4inch piece of stem. But with a little love and affection it has now filled me with hope that a tuber will be there at the end of the season. This does not include a number of cuttings I have taken and rooted from it, the count is currently at 6 with another x4 waiting to root. I have even managed to root an “old” leaf off the plant, I just put it a small pot and forgot about if I am honest – see picture on right which shows new growth coming through.

General Cuttings update (mid-June)-
   Most of my cuttings have been thrown out of the greenhouse and are at the mercy of the elements now. They all got a feed of ˝ strength Chempak No3 when I put them outside –
   • Chempak No 3 is a balance feed – N:20 P:20 K:20
Then at the next watering they got a double dose of Provado Vine Weevil Killer & Provado Ultimate bug killer.
   • Now this will prevent them from Mother Nature’s little critters from attacking them.

Every x2 weeks I go through all my cuttings –
    • Rubbing out any side shoots that are coming.
    • De-budding any flower buds that are forming.
    • Stopping any basal cuttings that come up, by just nipping out the growing point thus leaving a small stem and the attached leaf.

...The cuttings I took with the intention of flowering have not exactly grown as I thought they would, even though I have taken at least x2 buds of each of the cuttings.
However there is still x2 weeks of growing left before I hit the 45 days to Southport Flower Show date. A period of warm weather will and should produce a growth spurt and hopefully give me a half decent plant to but a flower on.

Well I have well and truly broken the Golden rule of Begonia Growing –
   Knowing when to stop taking cuttings!!!!
I always start the year with a wish list of plants I need to take cuttings from and I always have a date in mind when to stop taking cuttings, and again I have failed miserably to keep to either rule.
Every time I see a cutting on Alana Hamilton, Burnout, Tom Brownlee, Yellow Bali Hi, x5 secret varieties, RTMB and a few others I just have to take them!!!!! I just cannot resist the temptation to have them.
And to add to this issue I have been lucky enough to get a cutting of Joan Bryce from Robert Bryce, that is now living on the kitchen window sill and the x4 cuttings I have already taken are on my daughter’s bedroom window sill. And it’s still throwing side shoots, which will all be took and rooted.

Other news -
   I can do must odd jobs but electricity gets the better of me. This stems way back when I was a young lad and worked on the farms, and let’s just say H&S wasn’t exactly high on everyone’s priority lists back then - so how do I put it – I got shocked and fried a lot so to speak due to dodgy wiring and water crossing each other’s paths on more than the odd occasion.
So when these kind of jobs need doing I call my younger brother Robert – PS as payment for the help please see the picture of my “little bruv” on the right.

Contentious Corner –
Issue 8 - (This one is a bit of fun)
   A handicapping system!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I have realized that there are not many Begonia Exhibitors who are still working full time (like P.Sourbutts and myself), most have been lucky enough to retire!!!
So those of us who have to work are at a disadvantage to those who are retired in a weird sort of way!!!!! So a simple way of levelling the playing field is a sort of handicap system, for example -
Exhibitors who have retired get 10 points a flower / plant and Exhibitors who work full time get 12 points a flower / plant (P.Sourbutts thinks we should get 15 points a plant / flower)
I will not say any more on this issue but just wait for the debate that will no doubt come my way.
PS this does not include John Hamilton who needs no help whatsoever.

Issue 9 – (This is one to get you thinking)
   Does feeding Potash give you big blooms!!!
Now after what I have “researched” I can honestly say No!!!! Now that will no doubt lead to a lot of growers properly spluttering on their cup of tea shouting “What” at the computer screen.
Potash helps increase crop yields and can help colour and texture in fruit – but there is very little if anything about what if anything it does to the actual FLOWER!!!
(This sums up what Contentious Corner is all about – making you think about an issue that you have just taken for granted in a way)

Issue 10-
   Fans in a greenhouse to cool the plants down
I personally do not use them, for the following reasons –
• You are only blowing and moving hot air around.
• Too much air movement can result in the petals rubbing against each other causing damage
I would sooner take glass out of the greenhouse and try to get the greenhouse temperature to match the outside temperature.
However there are crafty growers out there (not mentioning any names Mr J.Chiswell) who has chiller units at the end of the greenhouse and the fans blow the chilled air through the greenhouse.

                 Until next time….

Michael Richardson's Diaries 2015