The National Begonia Society


2015 Diary

Michael Richardson

Episode 7   ‘The Caledonian Tours 2015’ Tour No 2

Sunday 8th March – Scotland

   Well it had to happen, to cut a long story short I woke up at 9am!! I was supposed to be at Chorley for 8am. I thought Vincent Potts & Bob Bryce would have set off to Robert Nelson's so I was just going to drive straight to the meeting. Just as I got downstairs my mobile went off, it was Vincent! After explaining what had happened and why then apologising, Vincent said they had both gone home after waiting an hour at Chorley so I asked if he still wanted to go. At 1015 we left Chorley to get to Robert Nelson's. I had phoned Robert and explained what had happened on the way to Chorley and he was very understanding and said he would wait for us. We got to Robert's for around 1220 and all I will say at certain speeds my car drinks fuel at an alarming rate!!
   On a prior request from a member of our tour party Vincent Potts, he asked if we could go to Robert Nelson first as he had been invited to join the committee meeting. As if we go to Robert's first we have to get to the meeting early as Robert is part of the committee.
Well that idea got blown right out of the water. Robert caught the end of the meeting and Vincent missed it.
   When we got to Robert's I noticed about x6 hanging baskets at the front of his bungalow and they were full of what looked like pink winter berries. On closer inspection it dawned on me what they were – I have put a picture on the left - I was disappointed to say the least that a grower like Robert and stooped so low, that was until he blamed his better half, his good wife Margaret for ordering them.
   For those not aware Vincent Potts and Samuel Kennedy have come up with and drafted a “Colour Booklet” pertaining to the growing and cultivation of the Species side of Begonias. John Hamilton has done one on Cut Blooms and Pot Plant growing and cultivation. They will hopefully be available later this year.

   There were a lot of familiar faces at the meeting along with some new ones.
The speaker was Neil Bragg and his chosen subject was Compost Mixes, Innovations –
He explained that he was Chairman of the Agricultural & Horticultural Development Board and his first part of talk involved what the “AHDC” did.
The second part of the talk was more about his role as the head of the Research and Development Team at Bulrush.
    • At this point Neil mentioned that there is no male Vine Weevils, there all females – I will be totally honest I never knew that.
    • Another point that was raised was consistency between “composts” from year to year; Neil Bragg explained that a lot of this is down to when they harvest the peat. When they harvest peat during a very wet year then the following year they could be issues with consistency.

   During one conversation after the talk had finished with some growers from Scotland about the use of nematodes for Vine Weevils, they were saying how successful they have been because they drenched the borders in the garden along with their begonias in the greenhouses etc. So they were trying to eliminate the problem at source as well so to speak.
   This I thought was a very good idea however you cannot use Provado with the nematodes as they will kill them. Now I will use Provado Vine Weevil Killer & Provado Ultimate Bug Killer so not only to protect the plant from Vine Weevil but whitefly, greenfly etc.
   So what I will try this year is to use Provado as normal on by Begonias and drench the borders in the garden with nematodes, with the aim of getting the pest before “she” gets my begonias.

After the meeting as we set off back home and during the first of many conversations it was mention that it would be a good idea to invite Neil Bragg down to Chorley to give a talk on composts and what Bulrush do.

“Local excursion No 1”
Thursday 19th March – Blackburn
   I made my first visit to Vincent Pots home / greenhouses today; he only lives an approx. 25 miles away. All the trips I have made to Scotland and I have one of our best Species Begonia growers on my doorstep so to say.
   I am not going to tell you everything about his entire set up, as that will spoil the surprise later on in the year.
   His over wintering / propagating greenhouse is 24ft by 8ft. I have split it down into x4 sections just for the ease of explaining to you -
Species Plants - these occupied a 12ft section on the right hand side when you entered and had a 3 tier staging set up. Each tier of staging had a “gravel” floor that the pots sat on. Filling this section of greenhouse staging was his Species Plants. After seeing the amount of Species plants he has and the way they look in his greenhouse I have to hold my hands up and honesty say that I have found a new found respect for this type / group of begonia’s, and when I see them on the show bench I will show a lot more interest for this class. We had a good chat about their culture and propagation and learnt a lot more in that hour about the Species plant group that I had known before. I must admit I was amazed at just how many cuttings Vincent got from one leaf and how easy he made it sound. I was also amazed at how dry he kept these plants through the winter, looking at how dry the compost was you would have thought the leaves would have flopped, but no, upright and proud they stood. Vincent commented that in the next week or so he will start to introduce water and feed to awaken them and get them going. 
“Canes” – These occupied the second 12ft stretch on the right hand side of the greenhouse, again there was a 3 tier staging set up to stand his Cane plants on. Just like the Species I had a lesson on Canes and I learnt a lot about a type of Begonia I am ashamed to say I had basically ignored.
Double tuberous – These occupied the first 12ft stretch on the left hand side of his greenhouse via a 10ft long hotbox unit. This was ¾ filled with Double tuberous tubers that were well away. Vincent explained that due to the ambient temperatures he had to keep his greenhouse at, to over wintering his Species and Cane varieties that this gave his tubers the ideal growing conditions to get the tubers away early. At the end of 2014 Vincent managed to save most of Dennis Hague’s plants when he passed away last year. He now has a big dilemma of where to put them as well as his own tubers now they are ready to be potting up, since he does not want to move into his other greenhouse yet as it will mean being insulated and putting heat into it.

Society stand plants – flamboyants, multi-floras and bedding begonia tubers filled the rest of his hotbox.

– This occupied the second 12ft section on the left hand side was full of Species, Canes and a couple of Double tuberous begonias already potted up.

                            Part 2 of this visit will be done later in the year.

‘The Caledonian Tours 2015’ Tour No 3

Sunday 22nd March – Scotland
   This time a change of scenery and a trip the Indoor Bowling Club at Auchinleck and the meeting place for the South West Area Begonia Meeting and the speaker!! Are very own Vincent Potts.
And yes, before you ask I did get up on time.

   On the way up we took a “slight” detour and came off the M74 at Gretna Green and shot across the A75 through Dumfries and Castle Douglas and onto to Ian Donaldson’s abode at Kirkcudbright.
After a good 3hr drive we arrived at Ian’s and had a quick look in his propagating greenhouse before we were treated to a full cooked breakfast by his good wife Linda.

   In his propagating greenhouse, Ian’s plants were well away and he had left his main adult tubers in his propagator a week longer than he normally would so we could see them. As the pic. shows on the left they look well and healthy. The picture on the right shows the back of this greenhouse which has a hot box containing his cutting tubers in their 1st pots, and running down the left hand side of this green house were cutting tubers in their 2nd pot which was a 3litre pot.

   On the picture to the left you can see his main greenhouse empty and ready for use when required – Ian’s set up is very clinical – where everything has a place and everything is in its place.
Now you all know how large Ian manages to grow his begonias now look to the picture on the right and see the size of his budgerigars!!!

   Before we left over a brew we set the world to right as they say.
At 1200hrs we set off to the meeting, it was a good hour’s drive to Auchlinleck from Ian’s. All I will say about the drive to the meeting is that I never knew Scotland had a stage in the World Rally Championship and that Ian had lost his way in life by not being a Rally Driver in his younger years.
I think Vincent aged quite a few years on that drive, and breathed a huge sigh of relief when we got to Auchlinleck as well as my car's suspension.

   Now it was Vincent’s turn to address the masses of the South West Begonia Society. His talk was on multi floras and his beloved Species and Canes and his talk was well received. After a refreshment break Vincent finished off his talk, then ran a Cd about Southport Flower Show from 2013.
Vincent’s talk was well received and we enjoyed the occasion that much I volunteered Robert Bryce’s services for a meeting next year if they wanted us back.
We had a meal there with Robert Nelson before leaving for the long drive back. After dropping Robert and Vincent off I walked through the front door at approx. 2125hrs.

Until next time.……

Michael Richardson's Diaries 2015