The National Begonia Society


2015 Diary

Michael Richardson

Episode 13.

‘The Caledonian Tours 2015’ Tour No 5
Sunday 10th May
   Well it’s that time again when the x3 horseman of the apocalypse saddled up and headed North, but before we left myself and Vincent had a look in Robert Bryce’s Greenhouse, whilst he was getting his things together for his talk to the Scottish Begonia Society.
   Most of his plants had been potted up and he had given them a couple of sprays of Maxicrop Growth Stimulant as a foliar feed over the last week. They had turned the corner from when I last saw them. The man certainly knows his plants and can read their needs and what to do to pull them back on track however Robert stated he is at least 10 days behind and will be hard to pull that growing time back.
   We left Roberts and had a clear run until we hit Shap, as we left the lakes then the heavens opened and we had rain all the way up to Junction 12 on the M74 where we came off for Coalburn and John Hamilton’s home.

   When we arrived at Johns we found him potting up his plants in his “inner sanctum” / greenhouse. They had been potted up over the last couple of weeks and looked really well. He had also been hanging up  some hanging baskets from the “roof” as you can see from the picture on the right.
   He still had a number of plants to pot up as you can see with the picture on the left.
John explained to Vincent with Robert how his misting unit worked (see picture at the bottom, they all of a sudden went shy….) with regards rooting his cuttings as this way worked best for John.
After a good hour at Johns we left with John for Robert Nelsons.

   We were running a little late when we arrived at Roberts so before he gave us a guided tour we were ushered into his kitchen for a brew and a bacon roll followed by a conversation that was believe it or not, not about begonias for a change but politics due to the elections earlier in the week. After a cup of tea Robert took us outside and showed his “2nd greenhouse” first, his plants looked well as you can see from the picture on the left. The eagled eyed almost you will notice that Robert has saucers under all his plants as he waters from the bottom of the pot and finds this way works for him.
(Brian Simmons the master of our website has since mentioned that he sits his pots on saucers and waters from the bottom of the pot as well).
His propagating greenhouse was full of cuttings and his Pot Plants with his slow growing plants sat on his hotbox.
His main greenhouse had his most advanced plants in and to be honest they looked really healthy and at present he looked in good shape for this stage of the year as you can see by the picture on the left.
At this point we had to leave so Robert and John could get to the Scottish Begonia Societies committee meeting.

   We arrived in time for John and Robert to attend the committee meeting and myself, Robert & Vincent chatted with other members who were there early as well.
   At their May meeting the Scottish Begonia Society hold a plant sale to raise funds for the society, all the plants are donated by the members and they are all priced £5. All the members in attendance at the meeting are issued with a raffle ticket on arrival, then the tickets are drawn out of a bag and when your raffle ticket is drawn you can go up and choose a plant which you just take to the “ladies” and pay your £5 and they put it in a bag for you. This happens until all the plants have gone. All the plants I have had from their plant sale have contained a started cutting tuber, so it is well worth £5.
This is one of the main ways the Scottish Begonia Society raises funds.

  When the plant sale had ended Samuel Kennedy handed the floor over to our own Mr Bryce who then conjured up a near miracle by delivering a talk that was pretty much un-hecklable.
Yes that’s right, hecklers corner was filled and ready – John Hamilton, Kennedy McQuiston, Ian Donaldson, Jim Irvine, Tom Auld and even Derek Nimo had joined the table and then Robert Bryce delivered a talk on the History of Begonia Hybridisation!!!!! And silence fell on the audience whilst he delivered his talk which was very informative and interesting and was well received by all present.
   After we had mingled and chatted for a while we made our farewells and set off back South to drop John Hamilton at his home first before the long drive home. At Johns he asked if we wanted a brew before we set off back, and before anyone replied I was out of the car like a shot – you can never refuse a brew before a long drive.
   When we reached Abington Services on the M74 the rain hit us and it threw it down until Gretna, then it eased off and we had a normal drive back.
   We dropped Robert off at approx. 2030hrs, and then Vincent at approx. 2045hrs and I finally got home about 2130hrs; another tour North completed.

“Local excursion No 5” – (This was unplanned)
Sunday 24th May – 40 East Lancs Rd, Blackburn
   Just to give you an update on Mr Bryce’s plants – they are moving, and catching up fast – Like I said before he is now on a mission to put us “young uns” back in our place. Just like a wounded animal he is at his most dangerous when he is on his back foot so to speak.
   And just as he gives off the impression that he might be slowing up, well let me tell you he has rebuilt half his hotbox / propagator and is starting on the other side of his propagating greenhouse now.

“Local excursion No 6” – (This was planned)
Sunday 24th May - 27 Woodmoss Lane, Scarisbrick
  We arrived at Peter Sourbutts at approx. 10:30hrs and was greeted by Peter and he ushered us into his first greenhouse, just one word described how I felt when I saw his plants – gobsmacked – we all were, just look at the picture on the left.
At this point he bellowed out his battle cry “come on Jonesie” it’s building up to be a battle royal between these 2 for the Seven Pots of Tuberous Double Begonias – British Championship.
His 1st greenhouse had a single level of staging that ran all round his greenhouse; on the right hand side he had his most advanced pot plants. Across the back ran his hotbox and down the left hand side he had some smaller pots that where looking good as well. Above the “bottom staging” he had a 2nd staging system that ran around his greenhouse to form a narrower staging system which he could dismantle to open everything up for his pot plants. On this 2nd tier staging he had his smaller plants and a lot of rooted cuttings he had taken from off his bedding plants.
Peter keeps the temperature of this greenhouse at 5°c.
  I will mention that he mixes  different mediums together for his potting mixes, but how can you say it’s wrong when he can grow plants like he does. The moral of this story is you do what suits you and your conditions.
   One thing Peter did do that I have not heard of before is that he mixes his medium in x20 Litre batches then adds a x2 litre mixture of Provado vine weevil killer and lets it soak through then mixes it in, so when he pots his plants in it the roots take it up straight away and the plant is protected.
   I will be honest and next year I will copy Peter and do the same time, however I will mix my mix as normal then measure out batches of 20 Litres and soak it through with Provado vine weevil killer.

   At this point Peter’s better half June appeared with a brew and homemade cherry scones and boy were they delicious. At this point I will mention that earlier in the week June had been to the Queens garden party, she had been invited through her charity work.

   Peter then took us to the top of his garden to his 2nd greenhouse which was full of begonia bedding plants, and this time the greenhouse was unheated – Peter, Vincent and Robert then had a lengthy discussion about which begonia bedding plants were the best. For example – Bon Bon Sherbet or Cherry – Glowing Embers and the new one Sparkles and so on.

   Vincent called time on our visit so we could get round everyone, we thanked June & Peter for “putting up” with us and then set of to Mr Southport himself Terry Tasker.

“Local excursion No 7”
Sunday 24th May – Churchtown, Southport
   We were greeted by Terry at his door and shown through his house to the garden at the back. On the way through we went through a room full of art/sculptures and myself and Vincent just had to stop and look. Terry and Robert disappeared into the garden just as Terry’s wife Shirley came in; to our utter amazement she said it was all her own work. I just had to take a picture of them, please see the picture on the left.  Shirley went on to tell us how she teaches art and takes classes in making sculptures, she then kindly explained how she made the frames for the figures then how she covered them to give them shape. All the time I just could not help touching them I was expecting to be told off at any moment, but Shirley did not seem to worry too much and let us touch them - well me anyway.

   After a little longer we joined Terry and Robert in one of Terry’s greenhouses.
He had x4 tiers of staging running the full length on either side of this greenhouse. His Ayr plants were on the right and his Southport plants on the left. All the plants in this greenhouse were in their final pots and all had a cane already in position for when he is ready to tie his plants to the cane. This he said would probably be next week.
Another thing Terry did that I had not seen before was as well as spraying his begonias with Maxicrop Growth Stimulant he also put it in the water so his plants get it as a root drench as well at each watering.

  His 2nd greenhouse had a single level staging running the full length on both sides of this greenhouse as you can on the left with a very photogenic Mr Bryce. On the left had side he had a heated mat that must have been over 10ft long at least 3ft wide, when he takes his cuttings he stands his pot and cutting on the mat for a little bottom heat. On the left of this greenhouse he had some fantastic looking rooted cuttings.

After we had a long chat Vincent said we must be going, so for the first time I let my subject choose his pose – what did he do!!! Cuddled one of his plants – see the picture on the right.
So we said our farewells to Terry and Shirley but as I was leaving I noticed another of Shirley’s sculptures hanging on the wall at the bottom of the stairs and just like before I just had to touch it, it was of an angel looking at the moon and Shirley explained how she made it. I eventually caught up with Vincent, Robert and Terry talking by the car.

“Local excursion No 8” –
Sunday 24th May – Cleveleys
   We made are way from Southport to Cleveleys to visit Tom and Jennifer Roberts who attend the North West Area Chorley meetings.
The journey took forever because Vincent set his “sat nav” not to include motorways or A roads, or that’s what it seemed. Vincent got a lot of stick off me and Robert as we followed what seemed the old roman road way to Cleveleys. He even resorted to arguing with the “sat nav” - that made it worse as Robert and I could not stop laughing.
   Sometime later we eventually found our destination and were greeted by Jennifer who told us Tom was in the greenhouse. When we found him he explained how his wife and daughter had taken over his greenhouse and basically evicted him, so he had to build another greenhouse for his plants. Tom showed us his plants and explained how he grew them, and then he showed us what he called his disaster area where he kept his “poorly” plants.
   Jennifer eventually joined us with the cups of tea, at this point Tom told us how he remembered his parents taking him to Southport flower show in 1933 when he was 3 years old in his buggy and all he could remember was seeing people’s feet and bums. From that you may be able to roughly work his age out, and believe me he is as active as ever – that’s probably because he dare not take his eyes off his wife and daughter or they will take over the greenhouses and entirely rule the garden.
   Now Jennifer and Vincent decided to compare medical ailments whilst Tom told us about his and his daughter’s triumphs at their local show last year, and explained how his daughter had built a “stumpery” around their pond – just because Prince Charles had one.
   At this point Jennifer brought out some sandwiches made with her own homemade bread and a homemade chocolate cake – the hardships we have to face on our travels.
   Once again Vincent called time on our visit as it had turned 1700hrs, how time flies when you are having fun.
   We said are farewells and made our way home, dropping Robert off first and just before Vincent got out of the car I turned round and said “we are running out of gardens to visit!!” Who knows where we might turn up next…. Or get invited too!!!

                                                                                                  Until next time….


Michael Richardson's Diaries 2015