February, 2011

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Next Meeting

When:  Monday, February 14, 7 p.m.
Where:  Mounts Auditorium
Speaker:  Begonias and other Shade Loving Plants; John Boggan
Badge Plant: Nancy Cohen
Raffle Table: Beautiful plants from a local nursery.

President’s Message


Thanks so much (again!) to Charles Jaros for a fun and successful auction. We are very fortunate that he is able to help us out both in obtaining plants and imparting his knowledge about them during the auction. In addition to beautiful begonias, Charles also auctioned several absolutely gorgeous Aeschynanthus and Columneas. There was never a better visual segue for February’s speaker- John Boggan, who will be speaking on Gesneriads as companion plants.

We are very lucky that John will be vacationing in our area and has agreed to speak - on Valentine’s Day, no less! John Boggan is a Museum Specialist, Dept of Botany, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Systematics of Gesneriaceae. He studied both Entomology and Botany at Cornell University. He is the author of many articles on Gesneriaceae, and grows begonias as a hobby. Those of you who belong to Yahoo’s “Begonias” group will recognize his name and begonia expertise. We’re looking forward to his talk and we hope that you will join us. We are departing from our usual begonia raffle table and will have gesneriads for sale and raffle. Those of you who were outbid last month might want to get to February’s meeting a little early!

On a housekeeping note, we need to start keeping kitchen supplies such as serving spoons and forks, kitchen knives, platters, bowls, coffee pot, etc., in our storage space. If you would have an extra of anything in the kitchen category and would consider donating it, please bring it to the next meeting.

There will be a bin at the sign in desk for your donations.

Our trip to Palm Hammock Orchid Estates on Friday, Feb 25, 2011, to preview the Blooming Begonia Festival will leave at approximately 9am from the Mounts parking lot and will return at approximately 3pm (traffic permitting). This will be a bring your own “brown bag” lunch. We have a few more spaces left for members and you will be able to sign up at the Feb 14th meeting. The trip is free to members. The cut off to sign up is Feb 15th. Doris Happel is handling the arrangements for the trip, so if you can’t make the meeting, make sure you let her know by the following day if you want to go. After that we will open the trip to member’s guests (cost $15.00 each) and if there is space after that, to other plant society members. So many of you ask “What color are the flowers?” so here is your chance to find out!

I look forward to seeing you on Valentine’s Day!

Virginia Jens
President, 2011

Around the Garden

The flower spikes are rising on the big rhizos and we will soon have waves of pink and white flowers everywhere. To keep the displays looking good, remove all those old or cold-damaged leaves. I have been telling you to do this and I realize that many of you may not know the best way to remove leaves. You should try to snap off a leaf at it's attachment point. On canes, you may have to support the cane with one hand while snapping off bad leaves. On big rhizomatous begonias, snap a leaf off at the rhizome by bending the petiole (leaf stem) backwards. You will get the hang of it after a few tries. Sometimes it is impossible to reach that far into a big clump. My favorite tool for pruning soft things is a bread knife from a dollar store. Cut as close to the rhizome as you can reach. Most gardeners tidy up by gathering the clippings and throwing them out as yard waste. I cannot bear to discard perfectly good organic material. I have a few large containers for composting but rarely use them, mostly because it is too far to walk. Instead, I find a little clear space in the bed and make a debris pile. Later, I cover it with mulch; if I don't get around to mulching, the pile disintegrates in a couple of weeks. Discarded stems of cane begonias left lying on the ground will sprout. Sometimes I push canes into the ground to create new plants. Leaves of rhizomatous and thickstem begonias will also sprout occasionally. The picture shows a leaf of B. 'Selph's Mahogany' which has a cluster of little plantlets. The leaf became detached from the plant; how, why and when I do not know. It rested on the ground, shaded, covered by dropping oak leaves. The conditions were right and plantlets sprouted. I'll let them get a little bigger and then dig them up and separate them. The sloppy gardening I have described would make traditionalists gasp for fear of spreading fungus and disease. I have not had a problem, but thought I should caution you.

Mentioning the breadknife made me think of garden tools, so I'll describe the ones that I use all the time.

A two-wheeled wheelbarrow. Tired of having your wheelbarrow tip over and dump everything? Get one with two wheels. I use mine every day. I use bungee cords to attach small tools to the handles such as the breadknife and a root pruning saw. A small cultivating tool balances on the crosspiece between the handles. A big pruning saw rests across the handles.

A straight-sided step-on shovel. I am small and this is easier for me to use than a spade to dig planting holes or cut through roots.

Good hand pruners. For ten years I have used Fiskars with a rolling gear, which gives increased leverage. I just purchased a pair of Fiskars with a ratchet design. I can now effortlessly cut through big branches. The only drawback is that the handles are a little too widespread for my hand so for big cuts where the blades have to be wide open, I have to use two hands to get it started. I carry the pruners on a holster hanging from my belt.

A small handsaw in a scabbard, very inexpensive at Harbor Freight Tools. This was an essential item, also hanging off my belt, until I got the ratchet pruners. I may not need it much any more, but I won't mind using it near the dirt where I might not want to put my good new pruners.

Cable ties - good for fastening any number of things. They come in all sizes and can be linked together to add length. Do not use these to fasten orchids or bromeliads to living shrubs or trees because you will girdle and kill the tree or shrub. Cable ties are good for attaching plants to fences and dead trees.

Horticultural velcro tape to attach orchids and bromeliads to living trees and shrubs. The tape will stretch and not hurt the host plant.

Knives from a dollar store. A breadknife will slice through begonia stems, aroid leaves (elephant ears, etc.). This is much quicker than using clippers. A small cheap knife on a potting bench is good for removing leaves on small plants.

A weed root digger. This is a wooden handle on a steel shank with a flattened, notched end about 1-inch across. It is good for digging deep rooted weeds and oxalis clumps to get the little bulb out so it doesn't grow back. Oxalis is the one that looks like a shamrock and has pink flowers.

Gloves. Harbor Freight sells a multi-pack of rubber palm and finger, cloth back and wrist gloves. Also useful are disposable nitrile gloves, similar to medical gloves but much stronger and designed to be impervious to protect you from garden chemicals such as herbicide and insecticide. Nitrile gloves are useful when potting plants to give you protection but not be clumsy. Also good for delicate weeding. They are inexpensive in a box of 100 at Harbor Freight.

Doris Happel

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