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Why begonias?

By Margaret Crow

Click on image to enlarge

luecojum aestivum

Back In The Days

When I was a little girl I loved flowers, my favorites were the bell shaped blooms, from the tiny white and green Leucojum aestivum to the huge Brugmansia suavolens that my great aunt Lizzie grew beside her house. I was excited by the shapes and colors of flowers and would make every effort to get as close to them as I could. Every so often I would discover that the beautiful flowers I thought I was seeing from a distance were colorful leaves instead. I felt so cheated when I found out what they were. I did NOT understand what would possess a person to grow something that looked so much like blossoms but weren't. It just didn't seem right.

Ligularia aureo-maculata

The Awakening

My early endeavors in the garden, once I started having any success at all, were aimed at growing flowers, and that seemed fine. After a couple of years I realized that I only had sporadic displays of color, most of the time it was the foliage that had to carry the show. NOW I understood those leaves that had baffled me for so long. What an epiphany! No more boring beds for me, I was a changed woman, there would be color in my world such as I had always longed for. Large plants with colorful and otherwise interesting foliage began to make their way into my garden: Loropetalum "Pink Pizzazz" and "Plum Delight", Kaempherias, variegated vines and shrubs, ground covers, ferns. It was all so new to me and I loved it. I found a swap site on the internet and began to trade for these kinds of plants. Life was good.

A New Obsession

Outside Looking In

My younger sister has been growing for a little longer than I have, not only the garden plants I had come to love but houseplants as well. She had several Begonia rex-cultorum that she proudly displayed with crystal suncatchers and figurines. I was enchanted with them but had no way to grow these delicate beauties at my home as far as I could see. My windows are badly placed and the house is overall too dark and cramped to allow them to thrive. I admired them at her house and went away feeling a little envious that she was able to get them to look so wonderful while I knew that they were outside of my range.

Sophia Cecile

Sophia Cecile Comes To Stay

One of the lovely people I met on the swap meet sent me a cutting of Begonia "Sophia Cecile", a superba-type angelwing. It was the most gorgeous deep forest green with large splashes of silver, red on the reverse. When it bloomed that inflorescence was huge and a very pretty pink (Sophia Cecile really is pretty in pink, lol) and I was smitten. I cared for that plant with what I call "benign neglect" and it thrived, growing more beautiful with each passing month. I was smitten with "Sophia Cecile" but hadn't been bitten by the begonia bug yet. I just had no clue what was about to happen to me!

Looking Glass

Through The "Looking Glass"

In the spring of 2001 a nursery around the corner from me got in a shipment of Begonia "Looking Glass". Oh my! Large metallic silver leaves with tiny dark green margins and veins, red on the reverse; it spun my head around, I kept looking at that plant, going back again and again. It was gorgeous. It was more expensive than my budget would allow, though, and all I could do was look at it for a week or so. Luck in the form of a friend who wanted me to design her garden intervened, and suddenly I had a little extra to splurge with. I brought that begonia home and installed it in a place of honor. I thought I had enough begonias now, two was a nice, even number! But on my next trip out I came across a couple of little rexes and, since they were inexpensive enough that I could pass it off by saying that "they last longer than cut flowers", I brought them home too.

Venetian Red Since then I have become rather rabid about this family of plants. Every one is different, each has a personality and demeanor that is it's own. I have learned so much about growing them in my climate and next time I'll tell you more about that.

Until then I am Your friend, in the Garden

Nigella's begonias

 

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