I’d like to thank all the outgoing officers, led by Shawna Price, for an outstanding 2010. As volunteer opportunities open throughout the year, remember that our society rests on the efforts of our members. Every job, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, helps to increase membership and begonia knowledge.
I hope the majority of your begonias have survived this interesting, unseasonable weather. You will have the opportunity to replace those lost and add to your collection at our first 2011 meeting- the Annual Begonia Auction. Charles Jaros, a past president of the American Begonia Society and a founding member of our branch, has consented to once again be our auctioneer. So join us on January 10 at the Mounts Auditorium. Plant preview starts at 7PM, and following a brief meeting at 7:30pm, the auction will begin.
Please check the Meeting tab on this website for our 2011 scheduled speakers. Frances Drescher, your Vice President, has worked very hard to schedule excellent begonia and shade loving plant speakers, many from out of our area. Mark your calendar now and plan around the second Monday of the month- you won’t want to miss any of these speakers.
I’ll see you on January 10th!
For the second year in a row, I dragged out my old L.L. Bean winter coat from New Jersey, plus hat and mittens, and it wasn't even winter yet. I whined to anyone who would listen. The temperature hovered right near freezing in my garden. This is precisely when a good tree canopy makes the difference between life or death, or damage from frost or no damage at all. On the east side of my garden I had removed the yellow and green striped bamboo, leaving a large area exposed. That is the only place that showed frost, and damage was minor. A few begonias there lost some leaves, coleus blackened but will come back, gingers went dormant, angel's trumpets and clerodendron dropped leaves, Brazilian Red Cloak and Acalypha have frizzled leaves. All these plants will come back, and in fact are already doing so. I am a little worried about the Adonidia palms, which lost 2/3 of their leaves last year. They are dropping green leaves again, and if a sustained cold spell comes around again, these palms may not be able to recover two years in a row.
Most begonias can handle the cold very well, right up to the frost point. If yours have damaged leaves, just remove those. If canes have top damage, cut off the damaged parts. B. 'Chuck Jaros' is a thick-stemmed type, the earliest to bloom. I have it in many places and the only ones with damage were in the exposed area. The others are in full bloom and quite beautiful. There are a few begonias that do not like temperatures below 40 degrees. The one that I used to grow so much, B. U402, the Venezuelan species, has almost died out for me. I have a few remnants left and will try to keep them going. For those of you who live west or north, you may have had more severe damage. I have read that frost cloth works very well in protecting plants from freezing even into the upper 20's. Dale Sena, who often visits our branch, said she is using frost cloth with Christmas lights under it to keep her begonias happy at temperatures that were in the mid-20's. These tricks are useful to know if you have the time and energy to protect your sub-tropical collections from our unusually cold weather. You may want to clean up damaged shrubs, but be patient and wait until late February or March. If you prune now, tender new growth may start during a warm spell and then get killed by the next cold front.
I have been enjoying watching our resident screech owls. They are hunting near our bird feeders (probably for rodents), and I see them when I go out with the dogs at night. I was out just as it was getting light this morning and saw another owl. These tiny owls have a beautiful, ethereal trill. It is worth taking an after-dark walk just to listen for owls. Every morning lately I am amused by a little House Wren chattering in the shrubs. This is the first year that this bird has appeared in my garden. The resilient hummingbirds are out there feeding on cold mornings and all through the day. Their favorite plants, firespike, did not sustain much damage. Keep your birdbaths full this winter! The weather has been dry and the birds will welcome a water source. There are fewer butterflies around when it is cold, but most species return as soon as it warms up. We had Atala butterflies on coontie several years ago. They died out completely in the winter of 2008-09 and did not return. The Atalas came up to Palm Beach County originally in plant material raised in the Homestead area. The biggest population of them was at the FP&L headquarters on the hundreds of coontie that was planted there. Last year the temperature in Homestead dropped to 26 deg., so if any Atalas survived in Florida, they might be in the Keys.