March, 2009

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President’s Message

I hope your gardens are doing well.  I thought I had largely escaped cold damage but now I find evidence of cold in a lot of plants and places.  Fortunately our rhizomatous begonias are now starting to bloom their heads off, distracting from winter problems.

Now through May is the best time of year for propagating begonias in South Florida.  So we are holding Propagating Parties—your chance to capitalize on the generosity of your fellow Begonians and start new plants from cuttings.  Doris Happel held a ‘Prop. Party’ in February and I’ll be doing one at my house in March (Saturday March 14, the Saturday after our March meeting.  Details and directions at the meeting.)   You’ll learn to take leaf cuttings from rhizomatous and rex begonias, and stem cuttings from other types of begonias (and other shade-loving plants.)  And you’ll come away with a tray of begonia starts (18 cuttings.)  This can be the basis of a new shade garden.  I am really pleased when I visit a member’s garden and they say ‘Oh, that beautiful begonia is from a cutting from your garden.’  You are all welcome, but these parties are especially good for new members.  Jump starts your collection, teaches you a new skill, and you get to talk to and know your fellow Begonians in a relaxed atmosphere (unlike our fairly hectic meetings.)  Doris is extremely generous when she holds a party, giving everyone cuttings of many different beautiful plants.  My garden is newer and I don’t have as many plants or begonias.  So if you have begonias you’d like to share, take cuttings and bring them to the party.

Convention planning is going very well, and we have a good number of registrants.  We hope you all will volunteer to help (there are many different opportunities to help and many different skills needed.)  I hope you all will show plants and come to the banquet too—it will be a very good time.  Go to the ABS website ( to see the wonderful seminars that are available free to Convention registrants.  The Begonia Society of the Palm Beaches will pay member’s registration fee if you volunteer to work 4 or more hours at the convention.

Our March speaker is Craig Morell of Pinecrest Gardens in Miami.  Craig will talk about micro-irrigation.  Craig irrigates (and grows and fertilizes) some of the most beautiful plants in South Florida, and is a fount of information.  And funny.  Join us.

Keep growing those begonias!

Nancy Cohen

Propagation Workshop, Convention, etc.

We had fifteen members attend the propagation workshop at my house in February.  Everyone had a great time, learned some techniques to make more plants, and went home with new varieties of begonias to nurture.  One thing I forgot to emphasize:  fertilizer!  Usually I put out reminders about fertilizer several times a year.  For those new little cuttings, wait two or three weeks until roots have formed, but even before new growth has started.  This is the time you can water with some Miracle-Gro or Peters liquid fertilizer.  Do that every week if you can remember.  Once you see new leaf growth, use some Nutricote or Dynamite, about one-half teaspoon in the four-inch pot.  Some of those cuttings like B. valida will soon outgrow that four-inch pot.  Transplant them to six-inch pots as soon as they look too big for the pot.  You aren’t aiming for bonsai here; you want big-leafed beautiful begonias, so give them some room.  If you are attentive to their needs, some of those little cuttings will be taller than you are in one year!

I came across an easy way to make extra drainage holes in plastic pots.  I know some of you have been drilling and hammering at those bowls that we bought for show plants.  I also saw a type of pot that Harmony Foliage is using now that had many holes in the bottom.  I was at an orchid society meeting and someone was demonstrating a plastic pot that he had dotted with holes on the sides for orchids.  He said he used a glue gun (without the glue!) to burn the holes.  I bought a glue gun at a dollar store.  It didn’t get hot enough to do a good job, but I am sure a better quality one with higher wattage would work fine.  In the meantime, my husband said, “try my soldering iron.”  That worked perfectly, of course without the solder!  Good drainage is so important, especially when the summer rains come and the pots tend to get soggy.  I have lost begonias that way.

I have heard from many of you in response to my request for convention volunteers.  I will have an updated list at the next meeting, and may circulate it by e-mail prior to that.  If you have not yet volunteered, please e-mail or call me for when you can work. or 434-3745.

Please consider staying at the Hilton Hotel Friday and Saturday nights of the convention.  Both are late nights.  The plant sale is on Friday, followed by a pajama party in the Hospitality Suite.  The banquet is on Saturday.  Don’t miss the banquet!  The master of ceremonies will be Mike Flaherty, famous for conducting a hilarious evening.

Doris Happel

MINUTES OF MEETING OF February 8, 2009

Nancy Cohen, President, began the meeting at 7:30 p.m. Maria Mitsinicos gave the Treasurer’s report and Sandy Arlund gave the membership report.   year 59 members renewed, 13 new members joined including three tonight - Leslie Mann, Linda Brownell and Nancy Y. Cohen.  Twenty-one members have not yet paid their dues.  Guests included Ingrid Menz, Cheryl Akey, Nancy Varney and Alan Gorenstein.

Nancy thanked everyone providing refreshments (Linda DeSanti, Tara Ford, Vivian Schwartz), Gene Joyner for bringing punch; Kitty Phillips and Betty Alhorn for raffle plants and Vivian Schwartz for the badge plant, an azalea.

Convention Report
Doris reported on the Convention meeting held Sunday, February 7.  She has a volunteer sign –up sheet for the convention and will email it for those not able to sign up tonight.  Some of the remaining jobs to be filled include setting up and sitting at the registration table, the boutique and plant sale. Registrations are going well.  There will be more than 4,000 plants to be sold. Plants are coming from Harmony, Tim Anderson and others. Doris encouraged everyone to bring a plant to show, and reminded members that if they volunteer a minimum of four hours, this club will pay their registration fee that includes admission to seven free seminars.  The banquets and tours are additional costs.  Judging school is offered; it costs $20 and is a great learning experience.  A requirement for all attending the judging school is that they must clerk at the begonia show.

Show Chairman Sandy Arlund announced that she needs more people to enter the Design Divison, and Charles and Nancy have some plant materials they can make available for this.

Old Business
There was no old business.

New Business
Nancy explained that the club has been supporting Mounts Botanical Garden with placement of a quarter page ad in each issue of the quarterly Leaflet magazine at a cost of $500 for the year.  She would like the club to do this for another year.  Suellen Solodar moved that the club do this.  The motion was seconded by Lynda Evans and unanimously approved.

Nancy commented that 2008 was a very successful year financially and Maria is doing a super job keeping records.  The club’s income comes from dues, the annual and other auctions, sales of pots and plants, and donations of plants from speakers.  Expenses include gifts to the ABS for various things, speaker fees, bingo plants for the holiday party, items to sell, miscellaneous printing, etc.  Nancy said she would like to give more to ABS, but not this year; we are doing a lot for the convention, including paying member-volunteers’ registrations.  She expects the convention to be very successful.

Announcements Next Wednesday Gene Joyner will be on WRNB 89.3 FM around three minutes after eight a.m. answering gardening questions.  Coverage is from Miami to Vero Beach.  Unbelievable Acres is open this Saturday 1 – 5 p.m.

Doris is hosting a propagation party at her house this Saturday beginning promptly at 9 a.m.  There will be one at Nancy Cohen’s house the following month, March 14.

Next month’s program will be given by Craig Morell who runs Pinecrest Garden, formerly Parrot Jungle.  He is one of the most knowledgeable horticulturists in South Florida and will speak about micro-irrigation.

Tonight’s speaker, Tim Anderson, was introduced.  He is the foremost hybridizer of begonias in South Florida, hybridizing for the past 30 – 35 years.  Tim has hybridized rex begonias with other rhizomatous begonias to produce heat tolerant cultivars that are sure to be very successful in South Florida gardens.  Some of the selections he auctioned included Marian Palmer, Golden Glow, Mrs. Ludwig, Bandit, Palomar Prince, Daddy’s Coffee, Big Cleo, Phoe’s Phil and Judy Cook.  The evening was a great success, with many members carrying home beautiful plants to add to their collections.

Respectfully submitted,
Sandy Sklar
Recording Secretary