July, 2009

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President’s Message

Greetings from up north

My begonias are sulking!  It is cold and wet and dark and they hate it (I’m not happy either.)  Strange that this weather has produced a truly lush and green and floriferous landscape.  My nasturtium leaves are 6” across and the peonies have 9” blossoms.  At least they look good through the windows!

I am really looking forward to joining you all for our July picnic and silent auction.  You always bring such good food and so many interesting and beautiful begonias and other shade-loving plants.  I never know what I’ll find when I return to Florida, but I hope to find some good begonias for the silent auction too.

Now the Convention is over, we’d like to do a few garden tours.  If you’d like to have our Begonia Society visit your garden, contact Johanna Kitson.  We’ll try to do tours that group gardens that are relatively close together.

Keep growing those begonias.

Nancy Cohen

July meeting

Meeting:  July 13, Annual Picnic and Silent Auction.  The picnic and silent auction are a highlight of our year!  The picnic gives us a chance to socialize for the whole evening and enjoy the fabulous food made by so many good cooks.  The silent auction gives us a chance to acquire new plants, and it provides some of the funds to keep our club running. 

Potluck Picnic Time:  6:30 p.m. to sit down to eat.  Come any time after 5 p.m. to help set up.  Please email Patt Lindsey to let her know what food item you are bringing.  POTTEDORCHID@aol.com.  Friends are welcome!  Just bring some extra food.  

Auction:  Bring begonias or other plants that you have been growing or non-plant garden-related items.  You may donate the bid price to the club or keep 80% for yourself.  You should have a bid sheet for each plant with a description of the plant and cultural requirements at the top.  Please print the bid sheet on your own printer.  Cut the page in half lengthwise for two bid sheets to a page.  If you are bringing a lot of plants, be sure to arrive early so you can set them up before we sit down to eat at 6:30.

Around the Garden

I do not complain about rain!  Maybe a little whine now and then.  I sat down to write this because we were having the usual afternoon downpour and I couldn't go outdoors.  Most begonias are loving the rain and heat.  There are a few that decline, some terminally, in summer.  I have some rexes, mostly Tim Anderson's hybrids, that are surviving.  Most of the rhizomatous, canes, and thickstems that we grow in the ground are growing like crazy.  June is the month to fertilize!  If you didn't do it yet, don't put it off any longer.  The rains are washing all the fertilizer down to China.  Summer conditions are producing a population explosion of snails.  I use Slugger (pellets), which contains metaldehyde, around the begonias.   It is every effective but can be lethal to small dogs.  My dogs show now interest in it, and I am careful to scatter it widely.  I have also started to crush snails when I am out with the dogs last thing at night.  I found that they are attracted to the residual heat of the driveway and brick paths--smash!  I carry a flashlight and bucket and also search garden areas where I have not used bait.  After a couple evenings of repeat checks in an area, there will few if any snails.  This combination attack, poison around the b's, and hand-picking other areas, should keep the snail population way down.  This year, for the first time, I have had tiny aphids on some begonias, especially U402.  This plant was particularly stressed by the cold winter, and then the aphids attacked. I have had good results with drenching the roots with imidicloprid.  Bayer's Advanced, Merit, Marathon are brand names; the active ingredient is imidicloprid. This product is also useful for scale and mealy bugs in the garden.  I use it very sparingly, and I never use it as a spray, always as a root drench.  It is a systemic, absorbed into the plant tissue, and ingested by the sucking insects. 

Doris Happel

Minutes of the Meeting of June 8, 2009

Vice-President Doris Happel opened the meeting at 7:35 p.m.
Members and visitors were welcomed.  We had one visitor, Mary Palmer.
Maria Mitsinicos gave the Treasurer’s report and a brief synopsis of the convention earnings.
Thanks to Brenda Skaggs, Christine Schwartz, and Fran Drescher for some tasty refreshments.

Old Business:  Our summer picnic will be next month.
Our speaker, Bruce Pearson, had to cancel tonight and will speak in August on Microclimes.

New Business:  Johanna Kitson will host a begonia propagation workshop on Saturday, June 20, at 1:00 p.m.  A sign up sheet was passed around.

Announcements:  Gene Joyner will host a question and answer plant show on WRMB (89.3 FM) on June 17 at 8:00 a.m.  There is a Rare Fruit Council meeting on Friday, June 12 at 8:00 p.m. in the Mounts lecture hall.  The program subject is how to trim fruit trees properly. Unbelievable Acres will be open Saturday, June 13, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Program:  Doris Happel gave an informative program on Thick-stemmed begonias showing us many examples.  Thick-stemmed begonias bloom from early spring to mid summer and are generally vigorous growers.  Many times thick-stemmed begonias grow one sided, a fact taken into consideration when they are judged in shows.  A thick-stemmed begonia grows with an apical dominance.  If it is cut off at the tip, it will re-grow a dominant tip.  This is unlike a cane in that if it gets cut off at the top, it branches down the stem.  Doris fertilizes her begonias three times a year—landscape begonias are fertilized with palm fertilizer and potted begonias are fertilized with Scott’s Sun Coat.  Examples of local growing thick stems are Begonia ‘Boomer’, valida, ‘Holly’s Storm’, ‘Virginia Jens’, egregia, ‘Aquamarine’, ‘Selph’s Mahogany’, reniformis, sericoneura, sericoneura variety ‘Dr Birdsey’, U043, and ‘Green Fountain’.

After the program was over the badge plant was awarded and the raffle plants were distributed to the winners.

Respectfully submitted,
Johanna Kitson
Acting Recording Secretary while Sandy Sklar is out of town


  1. PINCHING: As I write this I am just now doing my last pinching.  If you are going to enter plants in this year’s shows, it’s almost too late to do any more pinching and still have blooms in time.  This week I have been looking my plants over.  The ones that look full & symmetrical got moved to choicer spots and given a little more space.  Any that definitely were not going to be nice enough to show this year, I took cuttings from and moved the plants to a less desirable location.  This allows the better plants to have more room to reach their full potential.  Keep watching your plants to make sure the new growth is growing in the right direction.  Watch for buds growing inward.  Reprune those branches to get them growing toward the outside by cutting one node lower.  Stop pinching about 6 weeks before show time to make sure there are blooms for the show.
  2. POTTING: Now is the time to get that repotting done.  Sometimes, if you have a plant that isn’t really coming back the way it should, go ahead & repot it anyway in the same pot.  It should make a marked improvement quickly.  It is warmer now, & you plants should be growing like gangbusters.  If they aren’t, then they probably need repotting.  If you are planning on entering a plant in a show, make certain not to use white or odd colored pots.  Especially do not use the black gallon nursery pots.  They aren’t allowed & will be disqualified.
  3. SPRAYING: I have started seeing some mildew on plants now.  You know which plants are prone to mildew & as soon as you notice mildew spray all that are susceptible.  As a general rule most fungicides do not kill mildew but will prevent further mildew.  I try to spray mildew-prone plants at least once a week.  On a few plants (like B. sutherlandii & some of the rexes) more often than that.  I use Funginex but there are others you can use.  Some of the powder types like Benemil work for mildew also but they do plug up your sprayer & leave a residue on the leaves.  You do have to be careful about any kind of spray you use for the first time because some sprays are phototoxic on begonias & will cause burn or discoloration marks on the flowers or leaves.  Always test any spray on only a couple of plants & then wait a few days to see if there are any ill effects before trying it on more plants.  Continue to watch for bugs & diseases & try to get them under control right away.  It’s easier to spot treat when you first notice the problems than having to spray your entire collection.  You may start to see aphids now because this is their time to start multiplying.  I use Malathion but try not to spray anymore than I have to.  If you have organic methods use what works for you.  The main thing I want to stress is that you should be watching out for problems so you can get a jump on them.  Remember, a good way to kill minor infestations of mealy bugs is to use a small artist brush or cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol & applied to the critters.  They die instantly.  You can also use a spray bottle with the alcohol but make sure not to get any in the soil because that will harm the plant.
  4. FERTILIZER: (Yes, I’m leaving in these directions again this month).  You definitely need to start fertilizing.  Plants need fertilizer if you haven’t done your repotting.  Since your plants are actively growing now, you should be fertilizing regularly.  (No, regularly is not once a year!) At the very least use Nutricote or Osmocote on your plants so at least they’ll be getting something.  I use Nutricote in the springs & when I repot & then I fertilize with Miracle-Gro on top of that during the year.  During the growing season I try to water once a week with a 1/4 strength liquid fertilizer.  It’s better to fertilize more often with smaller amounts because you won’t risk burning the roots or over fertilizing.  Ask me or someone you know who raises nice plants if you are unsure about fertilizing or are unsure about the directions.  I have been faithfully fertilizing for about 3 months & it’s really starting to show results with warmer weather.
  5. RHIZOMATOUS BEGONIAS: Your rhizomatous begonias will be finishing up blooming this month & next, so now you can take some tip cuttings.  If you aren’t going to be taking any cuttings at least pinch the tips so you rhizomes will branch & your plants will fill in.  If you have any that are really overgrown, you’ll need to do some thinning & pruning to get them in shape.  Besides fixing your plant, you’ll have cuttings to root & share with your friends.  Make sure & get those rhizomatous plants repotted with fresh soil.  They seem to require fresh soil even more than the canes.  You’ll be surprised at how fast they take off in new soil.  I’ve repotted almost all of mine already & they have grown quickly.  I have been removing all the bad leaves & cutting up any good parts of those leaves & making them into leaf wedges for propagating.  They won’t be sale plants in time for any shows but they will be nice plant table plants for later on.  They can also serve as replacement plants for any of the originals that might have accidents this summer.
  6. CUTTINGS: Don’t forget to put those cuttings down for sale plants at the shows.  Make sure you have at least one growth bud at the bottom of those cuttings so they’ll make good plants & branch under the soil when you pot them up.  It is not too late to root cuttings for sale plants.  Any cutting will root in a couple of weeks this time of year &, if you pot it up right away, you only need another 4 weeks for it to root well enough to sell.  Don’t pot them directly into large pots thinking they’ll make large plants faster.  Pot them into a 3” or 3 1/2” round pot and fertilize them regularly & they will be much nicer plants.  If they grow too big, then you can repot them into 4” pots, but only if they’re ready & root bound.
  7. GROOMING: Make sure you look at your plants & keep them properly groomed so they’ll be at their best.  Remove all bad leaves now because they won’t get any better & your plant will have a chance to make up for them before the shows.  Remove spent flowers & keep them off the leaves, especially on rhizomatous.  They can rot a hole in the leaf & ruin it.  Don’t be afraid to rinse off your leaves with water occasionally to keep them clean & shiny.  Your plants will breathe a lot better if you so.  Remove any dead leaves, stems or whatever now so you won’t mess it up trying to do it later.
Reproduced with permission from the Rudolf Ziesenhenne Branch Brad Thompson is a long-time begonia grower and winner of the Alfred D. Robinson Medal for his hybrid B. 'Black Gold'.  He now resides in Vista, CA and does his hybridizing at Kartuz Nursery.
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