June, 2009

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President’s Message

Greetings from the North

Thanks again to everyone who volunteered and worked at the Convention.  You all did a splendid job.  I hope you also bought a lot of new and different begonias at the sale.  It may be a bit early to see any of them at our July silent auction/picnic, but we need to keep increasing our stock of great begonias in our collections.

Any suggestions you have to improve the convention please e-mail me (petcoh@msn.com).  Doris and I are writing a critique of the convention, and would love your suggestions.  We have a few good ones (save money and work by putting the convention registration and plant show registration processes online) but welcome any other ideas.

It is cool up here (39 at 6:30 this morning, probably no higher than 55 during the day) and slightly foreign! I have to admit hostas are a poor substitute for begonias.  But there are lots of garden activities and gardeners, and the views here in the mountains are gorgeous.  And it will warm up.

Keep growing those begonias.

Nancy Cohen

June meeting

We originally had planned to have the annual picnic and auction in June.  However, it seemed like a good idea to give everyone a break from buying loads of begonias, so the picnic will be in July.  Bruce Pearson of Tropical World Nursery will be our June speaker talking about new introductions of shade plants.

At the June meeting, we will have the usual raffle table and exchange table.

Around the Garden

Now that the convention hoopla is over, I am concentrating on my begonias again.  The canes are coming into bloom now.  The prize-winning canes at the convention were in full bloom and they came from Miami, which is a few weeks ahead of us in the bloom cycle.  To keep you canes looking good, you have to be somewhat ruthless in pruning.  Any stems that have turned brown and woody should be cut down to the ground.  You can use the leafy top parts for cuttings.  The stems that are showing healthy growth should be pinched to encourage branching.  By removing old stems, you will encourage the plant to send up vigorous new bright green stems. Just take off the little “dagger,” which is the next new leaf.  If you keep up with cutting back the old stems and pinching regularly, you will have very good-looking canes with branching stems.  And don’t forget to fertilize!

If your cane begonias are showing yellow leaves, and you are certain they have been well fertilized, then the problem could be nematodes.  Dig the plant up and look at the roots.  If you see the telltale root nodules that are caused by nematodes, take some cuttings from the stems and throw the plant away.  It cannot be saved once the roots are damaged by nematodes.  Improve your soil with peat moss, compost, or manure, to discourage nematodes.   Rhizomatous begonias are less susceptible to nematode damage.   In the meantime, grow your canes in big pots, or try another part of the garden.

Good growing

Doris Happel

Minutes of the Meeting of May 11, 2009

Nancy Cohen, President welcomed everyone at 7:30 p.m. Guests attending are Betty Beck, Cathy Hurley and Dorothy Tinker.

Nancy thanked all Convention volunteers for the fabulous job done. Sandy Arlund had no membership report.   Maria Mitsinicos gave the Treasurer’s report.  Although our share of convention proceeds is 15%, there wasn't much profit.  More than 6,000 plants were sold at the conference.

Thanks were given to those who provided refreshments for the meeting: Barbara Weltner, Marilyn Browde and Audrey Abrams.  Nancy Cohen provided the badge plant, Royal Luster.

There was no old business.

New Business
Nancy is leaving for the summer and First Vice President Doris Happel will take over. Nancy and Doris attended the ABS business meeting during the conference.  It was noted that two issues of the Begonian are paid for by donations.  Nancy asked members to donate $150 to pay for one issue.  Doris made a motion for the group to make this donation.  Candy Curran seconded.  The motion passed and the donation was to be sent to Wanda McNair.


Speaker: Sid Gardino, nurseryman – Exotic Shade Plants

Sid Gardino has a nursery in Delray Beach.  He showed and spoke about some of his favorite shade plants which make good companions for begonias.  Some of them are originally from Brazil, his home country and he shared stories about discovering and acquiring some of these.  These are representative of plants groups that thrive in conditions similarly enjoyed by begonias.   Vrieseas imperialis is the first plant he spoke about, a massive plant that grows on boulders in irregularities in the rock where organic matter collects.  He explained that when seen in nature, about 1/3 of the plant is dead leaves inhabited by various creatures.  It has a magnificent inflorescence.  Another of the large bromeliads is the habitat of the poison dart frog; others are carnivorous, actually digesting small animals.  Some bromeliads will absorb fertilizer better through their leaves than through their root system, so he recommends providing liquid fertilizer once in awhile.

Smaller palms such as Licuala peltata and L. grandes, which is more available, are slow growers in shade and are not very cold tolerant so he recommends bringing them in when temperatures are very low.  Mature height is 10 – 12 feet.

Orchids are one of the most popular groups of plants and also the biggest family with at least 30,000 species.  He showed a Paphiopedalum from Thailand which proved itself by toughing it out through the hurricanes.  He likes to report it in fresh mix every year and explained they like to be repotted even more often.  (Twice a year is even better.)

The Kaemferias are gingers.  One of his favorites won a first place in the Miami Plant Show.  It has a very fragrant flower which resembles an orchid, is dormant in winter.

Sid showed one of his favorite gesneriads; these are related to African violets and gloxinias.  The corm multiplies readily; plant is dormant in winter.  To show, he exposes the corm a little bit.  He loves its fragrance, and the surprise of its coming out of dormancy, producing a change that makes the garden exciting.

Ferns were among the plants that first attracted Sid.  The excellent Japanese growers in Brazil offered a fern that was as expensive as a car.  Although common ones are available at Home Depot, there are lots of really magnificent rare ferns.  He noted the footed ferns (Polypodium) with hairy rhizomes and the resurrection fern which looks dead when dry and revives beautifully in response to rain.

Other plants he spoke about with fondness included a night blooming cactus that grows in the shade which he called moonflower and Nepenthes which grows in hanging baskets filled with sphagnum moss.  Their modified leaf forms a pitcher which catches its own food, mostly dead insects.  Some types can even digest mice that drown in their huge flowers, deep water-filled pitchers.  Another group of plants now very popular, hoyas are vines from tropical SE Asia and Australia with very unusual flowers and a wide range of smells.  These are relatively easy to grow and prefer to be kept on the dry side.

The Amorphophallus is one of the most interesting plants in the world, going dormant in winter and sprouting in spring with spotted stems and male and female flowers that bloom at separate times to prevent self pollination.  The notably stinky female blooms yield olive pit size seeds in unbelievably beautiful seed pods.  The specimen he hesitantly brought in generates heat inside its flower and attracts flies.

Respectfully submitted,
Sandy Sklar
Recording Secretary

Minutes of the Meeting of April 13, 2009

Nancy Cohen, President began the meeting at 7:30 p.m.  There were no guests or new members.  Suellen Soladar showed and had available for sale, items ordered for the convention boutique: caps ($12.50), T-shirts ($12.50), and pop-up Garden Tidy ($25).  Nancy thanked Brenda Diaz, Deb Rosen and Audrey Abrams for refreshments, and Pat Lindsey for the raffle and badge plant.

There was neither old business nor new business.


Convention Report Doris reported on the Convention.  There are still a few volunteer slots open.  Also, some members who have volunteered haven’t yet registered.  Remember that the club is paying registration for anyone volunteering at least four hours.  Openings include boutique sales on Wednesday, Sunday cleanup 2 – 5 p.m., and someone to go to the PB Convention Center to pick up materials for the goody bags.

If anyone has trays to contribute for the plant sale, these are needed at the hotel before Friday night when the plant sale opens.

Speaker – Charles Jaros, on final prepping of plants for show.

Charles commented that there are several strategies for entering a plant.  Any one plant can be entered several ways, and how you enter a plant can determine its winning.  The Novice class is for those who have never won a blue ribbon in a Begonia show, but plants don’t have to be entered in the Novice division, but rather, the one more descriptive of its type.


Entries will be accepted Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Judges are not allowed to touch the plant.  They can ask a clerk to move the plant or pick it up.  Judges do not know who the owners of the plants are.  The classification people can turn away plants if they are in white or nursery containers or if they are diseased.
  • Anyone can enter.  Don’t have to be an ABS member.

    Next month’s speaker will be Sid Gardino.

    Respectfully submitted,
    Sandy Sklar
    Recording Secretary