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Friday, September 30, 2011

Begonia II From the Antilles to the Andes-More adventures

Hybrid tuberous begonia by Paul Carlisle

Spectacular hybrids like this beauty would not have been possible without the efforts of the next wave of plant explorers and collectors in the 19th c. Most of the best were British. One of the most intrepid--and he surely  was--  Richard Pearce,  collected for  the  plant merchants Veitch and Co. Pearce took enormous risks, climbing to 10-12 thousand feet in the Bolivian Andes where he found:                          

Begonia boliviensis

"Begonia pearcei, discovered in Bolivia in 1864, is also important in the hybridising of the Begonia × tuberhybrida begonias, the first of which appeared in 1867.[10"] W.

We hope this is adequate consolation to Pearce for dying in Central America of yellow fever, leaving a young widow..

An entirely different kind of begonia is a favorite along the Central Coast. It was developed in Santa Barbara.

" This is  Begonia 'Freddie' - A giant leafed rhizomatous begonia with entire rounded leaves that are glossy green on top and red underneath...Begonia 'Freddie' was hybridized by legendary Begonia hybridizer Rudolph Ziesenhenne (1911-2005) at his Santa Barbara nursery by crossing Begonia manicata aureo-maculata with Begonia barkeri.He named this outstanding Begonia for his son... " (Quote from San Marcos Growers catalogue) 

                                                            Begonia Freddie

Rudy is remembered in a begonia named for him Rudy Tootie hybridized by Mike Flahertyy of Montecito, owner of The Gazebo. Mike has hybridized another interspecies begonia in the dandy Yankee Doodle:

                                                                Yankee Doodle

For a complete historical take on begonias see once more :  www  For an up to date look a present day begonia hybrizers see : with many other images to be found on the American begonia Society site.
To learn how to grow them----well I'd buy them if I were you---but if you're dedicated, find the friendly directioins at :  Brad is another well-known hybrizer, and the site is bulging with information and pictures.

 tuberous begonia

Another of  Rudy's hybrids

Rex Begonia @. JesBell
 There's even a scented begonia--peach colored, smell is faintly citrus-y, looks great in a hanging basket.

Incidental notes about what's thriving in this strange cool summer: Lots of volunteer grape tomatoes sprang up from the compost. Bore heavily, ripenened easily, still bearing. Small is better?

Dahlias are good, especially the ones that live in a raised bed, and don't have to be lifted. On the other hand the water bill is astronomical......

It seems to take about 3 years for a plant to adjust itself completely to a local climate. Noticed it around here and so did Beverly Nichols in England (see Merry Hall by Beverly Nichols publ. by Timber Press. Nichols is the only garden writer who  can challenge P.G. Wodehouse. He's been re-published in a facsimile edition with the original illustrations.) A guilty pleasure.