April, 2009

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President’s Message

I would like to welcome our new members.  We are delighted to have you join us and hope you are finding our meetings fun and friendly and full of begonias.  We have 15 new members since the beginning of the year.  We’ve tried to get you off to a good start with our ‘Propagation Parties’ at Doris Happel’s and my homes.  After the ABS Convention we’ll do some garden tours and have some different programs, including a picnic/silent auction in June.

Craig Morell gave a fun, informative and timely talk at our March meeting.  Micro irrigation (watering the roots not the leaves) saves so much water.  If you are not a slave to grass you can do most of the work yourself.  In these terribly dry days this is the way to go.

It may be dry but our begonias are blooming like champs!

Speaking of champs, this is your opportunity.  Get those begonias ready to show.  Charles Jaros is coming to our April meeting to go through some final begonia grooming tips, and to answer Convention questions (regarding showing begonias and the Convention or anything else you’d like to know about.)  We are very gratified to see that so many of you have gotten involved.  This is going to be a great convention.

We’re going to get a good turnout at the Convention, even in these perilous financial times.  We have Begoniacs coming from all over the world.  Lots of wonderful people to meet and get to know.  Real expert begonia growers, fanciers, explorers, hybridizers.  I predict the Hilton will be the most beautiful place in Palm Beach county on Friday night when our show and sale open.  Be sure to join us.

Nancy Cohen

Convention News

I am really looking forward to the convention.  I am also really looking forward to it being over.  Thank you to all of you who have already given so much time.  Our convention committee meets once a month, and we each take away a long “to do” list.  One more meeting to go, and the “to do” lists are diminishing.  If you are planning to enter plants in the show, please bring them to the hotel on Thursday, April 30.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign up for the banquet.  The food will be great, and the fun will be even better with legendary Master of Ceremonies, Mike Flaherty.

Charles Jaros has arranged for great speakers, and we will all learn a lot and therefore enjoy our plants even more.

Doris Happel

Next Meeting, April 13

Speaker: Charles Jaros
Refreshments: Brenda Diaz, Debra Rosen, and Audrey Abrams
Raffle table and Badge Plant: Patt Lindsey


Nancy Cohen, President began the meeting at 7:30 p.m. She recognized the efforts of Rob Peters and Norma Grimm who were responsible for the new membership badges. Maria Mitsinicos gave the Treasurer’s report and Sandy Arlund gave the membership report. New members tonight were David McPherson and Cheryl Akey; guests were Linda and Ron Wiringer.

Nancy thanked members who provided refreshments (Hillary Berman and Kitty Phillips), Brenda Skaggs for the raffle table, and Brenda Diaz for the badge plant.

Convention Report
Doris reported on the Convention. She circulated a volunteer sign-up sheet which spelled out all the work shifts and said it would also be emailed. She encouraged everyone to attend the banquet. The speaker will be an entertaining California grower who sells plants to the stars, such as Oprah. She also encouraged members to stay at the hotel Friday night to take advantage of the evening’s activities including the plant sale and pajama party. There will be about 5,000 plants at the plant sale. Only seven of 35 trophies haven’t yet been sponsored.

Doris also mentioned that there is a lot of begonia conversation on Yahoo groups. Lately the discussion has been on tissue culture. It seems that a large grower, Lloyd Trabin is producing virus free begonias this way; apparently most begonias have viruses.

There was no old business.

New Business
Nancy explained that due to budget cuts, there are no security guards at the Mounts Building and she could use some help keeping the facility open beginning at 5:00 p.m. the night of our meetings. She also requested volunteers for cleanup since the room must be cleaned up thoroughly before we leave and there are no custodians to do this.

Pat Lindsey reported that the American Orchid Society is having serious budget problems and is closing its gift shop and garden. The garden will still be maintained and hopefully opened again in the future. It contains lots of begonias which the Begonia Society helped supply. Pat urged everyone to visit, take advantage of the gift shop sale, send a letter to jgordon@aos.org to encourage keeping the garden open to the public, and if possible, make a donation to help keep it open.

It was announced that there will be a propagation party at Nancy Cohen’s house this Sat., March 21.

Gene Joyner announced the Rare Fruit Council Spring Plant Sale in the Agriplex at the South Florida Fairgrounds Saturday, March 21, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. He also reminded everyone to tune into his radio program the third Wednesday of the month and that Unbelievable Acres is open this Saturday, 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Kitty Philips reported that the Montgomery Botanical Center will be open to the public for the South Florida Palm Society Sale; tours are $5 per person. Also, the Palm Beach Palm Society is having its plant sale April 4 & 5, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Caloosahatchie Park. Flamingo Gardens has a plant sale on March 21 offering plants of all kinds..

Next month’s program on grooming plants will be given by Charles Jaros. This is the last meeting before convention.

Tonight’s speaker - Craig Morell of Pinecrest Gardens, formerly called Parrot Jungle spoke about micro-irrigation. Craig was formerly gardener of Boca Resort.

Micro-irrigation is a better way to water under water restrictions imposed by the South Florida Water Management District, allowing us to conserve water and provide water to the plants where they need it most. The method has been used in Israel and Japan for a long time. Plants absorb most of their water through the roots, and many are more inclined to contract diseases via watering the leaves. He illustrated the huge quantity of water consumed by landscaping: 2 ½ gallons per minute per sprinkler head, 300,000 gallons per year per homestead, one million homes. Plus each golf course can use one million gallons of water per day adding up to 1.2 billion gallons per day for all of the golf courses in the district. Additionally, municipalities irrigate miles of highway plantings and agriculture supplies water to 10,000 acres of tomatoes by flood irrigation which adds insult to injury by washing fertilizer and pesticides into the Everglades.

In redoing the old Parrot Jungle, irrigation was significantly improved by replacing the very inefficient 120 foot radius water sprinklers with drip tubing.

Other steps that can improve the environmental impact of landscaping include adding organic matter to the soil, reducing nitrogen content of fertilizers, using less water hungry plants, and using less lawn overall. St. Augustine grass will produce longer roots if watered more deeply and less frequently.

Drip irrigation is a good alternative for begonias and is exempt from South Florida Water Management District regulations.

Soaker hoses made of recycled tires is the simplest method and most inefficient of the micro-irrigation methods. The hoses are laid close to plants’ stems and leaks water out all along the hoses’ length traveling only 2 – 3 inches sideways from the hose. Most of the water goes straight down. Therefore, it might take two or three coils around a newly planted tree, for instance. Hoses do break down over time and must be replaced. They last nine months to one year.

Use of a battery operated timer is a convenient addition to these systems.

Another micro-irrigation technique uses a flexible plastic tubing with holes spaced about one foot apart. It is threaded among plants within six inches from the plants and provides about one gallon of water per hour. A suggested schedule would be to use every two days for one hour. When using well water, the tiny holes can get blocked up with sand. Craig recommended using a filter (140 mesh filter). This kind of tubing will last three to five years.

Lawns differ in the amount and timing of water compared with some other landscape plants. It’s important to group plants that like the same amount of water to successfully implement a water conservation system.

Depending on the system, water pressure may need to be reduced and that requires a pressure regulator.

Additional pointers: Remember where the tubing is laid to avoid damaging it, and to be able to repair as needed. When burying tubes under mulch, use markers to indicate where the tubes are. Emitters can become clogged with algae, and to clean them, uncap one end and flush through with water. Micro-irrigation will also help conserve electricity because while reducing water usage, the pump doesn’t run as long. A special benefit for begonia culture is reduction of snails.

Respectfully submitted,
Sandy Sklar
Recording Secretary