April, 2013

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Next Meeting

When:  Monday, April 8, 2013, at 7:30 p.m.
Where:  Mounts Auditorium
March Refreshments:  - Susan Roberts and Donnie Brown
Badge Plant:  - Doris Happel
Speaker:  - Kathleen Burt-Utley "Central American Begonias"

The Begonia Society of the Palm Beaches Garden at the Mounts

On Saturday March 2nd Sandy, Frances, Nancy and Ed continued to work on our Begonia Garden at the Mounts. It looks better and better each month. We missed Patrick and Emily Dempsey as they were attending Pat's son's wedding in Orlando. Interesting, however, we interested a few new Master Gardener's in our society as they were putting in their required working MG hours weeding, and along the way learned about begonias!! Good news. The Begonia Garden sign for which we contributed $200.00 has been ordered and should arrive sometime in mid April. Then we will have a formal Dedication and hopefully a write up in "Florida Gardening Magazine." Stay alert for an invitation to attend when the date is determined.

President’s Message

Nancy Cohen has certainly lined up some very interesting, entertaining and informative speakers. You missed another good one if you didn't catch Craig Morell's presentation at our March meeting. Who knew Craig buys oil dry turface inexpensively at an Auto Store to mix with perlite and vermiculite as a potting medium for his gardens. Interesting.

The March 16th Propagation Party was another huge success. Doris' Gardens were even in fuller bloom in March then they had been in February. Everyone in attendance went home with a try full of cuttings. Doris was again the ultimate tour guide through her blooming wonderland. Thanks again Doris.

We have an opportunity to take our own Field Trip to the Palm Beach Garden Club's Show on Saturday April 13th and Sunday 14th located in the Museum rooms West and across the street from the Four Arts Botanical Garden from 10:00 to 4:00 PM. Several members of the PB Garden Club will be growing the plant "Begonia hernandiodes" in a special challenge class entry. There will be other begonias entered in other classes as well. Johanna will tell us more during Announcements at our April meeting. Hope to see you there.

Ed Whalen
President, 2013

April Program

Kathleen Burt-Utley "Central American Begonias"

Kathleen Burt-Utley, professor of botany at New Orleans University, will tell us about collecting begonias in Central America.
Burt-Utley is an intrepid collector and tells us these Central American species should grow well in the Palm Beaches. She is contributing to the first major regional plant encyclopedia ever written in Spanish, Flora Mesoamericana, a collaborative effort of the Missouri Botanical Garden, the Instituto de Biologia, and the British Museum. Her treatment of Begoniaceae will include 101 species with descriptions and keys.

Meeting Minutes for March 11, 2013

Call to Order and Greetings

President Ed Whalen called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m. He thanked Lee Statkewicz for keeping the building open and to Donnie Brown, Maria Mitsinicos, and Maria Villari (guest) for providing refreshments. He also thanked Sandy Sklar, Nancy Cohen and Frances Drescher for helping him with the Mounts Begonia Garden last Saturday

Old Business

Ed thanked Doris for hosting the two propagation parties, one last month, and the one this coming Saturday, March 16. He asked anyone planning to attend this month’s party to sign up and pick up directions if needed. The Begonia Society is providing potting soil and pots. Attendees should bring bags in which to collect cuttings. It was noted that begonias have been named after our members, Nancy Cohen, Virginia Jens, Johanna Kitson, Lynda Evans, Doris Happel, Charles Jaros and several others.

New Business

Nancy Cohen reported that founding member, Frances Hunter passed away on March 6th at 98 years of age. She was recalled as a wonderful character, a member of the Horticulture Society of South Florida, who helped arrange many flower shows, among other contributions to horticulture locally.

Nancy made a motion, seconded by Doris Happel, that the Begonia Society should send a $100 donation to the ABS Conservation Fund in her honor. The motion was approved unanimously.

It was noted that we are fortunate to have the Mounts Building for our meetings at no cost to the Begonia Society. Nancy made a motion, seconded by Donnie Brown and Maria Mitsinicos, that in support of Mounts Botanical Garden, we spend $450 for quarter page ads in the three issues of the Leaflet to be published in 2013. All voted in favor.


Member Virginia Lang read a short piece that appeared in the Smithsonian regarding the possibility of preserving blood in a plant.

Next month’s program will be given by Kathleen Burt-Utley on Central American begonias.

Meeting was adjourned.

Respectfully submitted,
Sandy Sklar
Recording Secretary


Program Notes

Nancy Cohen introduced our speaker Craig Morrell from Pinecrest Gardens. Pinecrest is located near Miami. Craig remarked that iguanas have become a major problem for begonias at Pinecrest, but luckily, Craig jokes, he is good at restoring plants near death, having gained much practice at his former job at Boca Resort. He has been at Pinecrest for the last eight and a half years and promised to share new and old tactics he has developed for caring for begonias and other plants. Craig explained that he has been working on streamlining and speeding up processes. He eventually hit a plateau with Pinecrest’s “rainforest” and doesn’t want it to over-grow since there are only three people assisting him in the garden. The strategy is to grow young plants quickly, and once they have filled out, to slow them down so they need less maintenance.

Much of his effort has been on perfecting the potting medium he uses. He now eschews peat moss for several reasons: it’s pricey, stays too wet and breaks down too fast. He discovered greater success using half perlite and half vermiculite. Fern growers use this for hanging baskets. It doesn’t break down. He found that one must line the bottom of the pot to hold the material from washing right out. Another material Craig recommends is calcine clay, which is also called Turface and “Oil Dry”. It can be purchased at Advanced Auto Parts stores and sporting field stores. It is composed of clay pellets and these also don’t break down. This material is used by bonsai growers. Cuttings from many types of mature plants can be rooted in this without other amendments. It costs about $10/50 lbs. When he tried using this in raised beds, he found that stray cats would use it like a litter box, so he abandoned this use and found that it worked just fine in pots. This also works well for cactus and succulents. Again, it is necessary to put something in the bottom of the pot to prevent it from washing out.

Craig’s steps to rooting cuttings (especially, begonia cuttings):
Step 1 – Prepare a 50-50 vermiculte to perlite mix.
Step 2 – Precharge (fertilize) the plant before propagating. If using Peters 20-20-20, plants will produce huge leaves which are too soft and will rot immediately. So…lower the nitrogen, use higher phosphorus and potassium, and then feed again when planted in the propagation beds. Even though there are no roots initially, the fertilizer will be picked up through the leaves.
Step 3 – Fertilize again after the cuttings are rooted, in the pot. This works on leaves, rhizomes, stem cuttings…anything being propagated vegetatively.

The above mix will never give the hockey puck dryness you get with a peat/perlite (Fafard) mix.

Too much Nitrogen results in too large leaves, and too tender to root successfully.

His technique for propagating begonia cuttings from rhizomes: Drop one pot into another. Fill with sand between the two pots. This maintains the right amount of moisture. Another method: fill mortar trays with wet sand. Cuttings in clay pots sunk in mortar trays with sand. Stays wet consistently, grows consistently. This is an old method called “slip potting.”

Review: Step 1 - Synthetic inorganic medium. Step 2 - Pump up with fertilizer before propagating. Step 3 Slip potting.

To achieve optimal growth, you also want to maintain a constant soil temperature of 76 – 82 degrees F. (Use a heating mat set at 78 degrees.) This speeds up rooting. The worst thing for vegetative propagation is cold, wet soil.

With palm seed germination, a stable temperature of 80 degrees is ideal. When tested, a fluctuation of three degrees caused a 20% drop in rooting.

One story from who knows where…on the third full moon every year, water from a zinc tap for an anti-bacterial benefit.

Hormidin1, 2, and 3. Dip cuttings, use inorganic potting mix as above. Hormidin 3 is 45,000 x more concentrated than a standard concentration. Prepare a dipping solution in water. Wear chemical resistant gloves, and don’t re-use this solution.

Rooting mats – 2 basic types:
Pig warmer: extremely durable; can be purchased at a farm supply store (Ft. Myers) for about $90. It will stay 20 degrees warmer than outside temperature. It is helpful to have one with a thermostat. May have to buy that separately. It is especially good for starting licuala (Palm) seeds (Nov. – May) Can start rooting during the winter, if you use heating mats.

Fertilizer – The questions: what quantity and frequency for maximum production. Timed-release fertilizers: Osmocote works if you know how to use it. Can burn if misused. Designed to be used at steady 68 degrees F soil temperature. In warmer weather, it will be released too fast, and there will be too much. Dynamite (Nutricote) does not burn, can use it right on top of the plant without damage. Dynamite is released faster when in contact with water. Dynamite and Osmocote both cost about $5.50 per pound.

When spread on the surface of soil, fertilizers feed weed seed. It is much more effective to put fertilizer into the soil. Can poke holes (dibbling – English) and put fertilizer in under the root ball. The umbrella effect of leaves will prevent water from hitting the soil and thus preventing the water from washing the fertilizer into the soil. Add a non-grease-cutting soap to help with wetting. Publix Mild and Gentle (1T/gal.) works well; it is also a good pesticide, and repels raccoons. Ivory and Palmolive will work. Add to fish emulsion – will smell better.

For fertilizing palms, use 12 – 4 – 15, or 12 – 4 – 18, or 10 – 4 – 20 (best). Sulfur-coated or polymer-coated fertilizers are much safer to use to prevent burning. If you use 20-20-20, will have big beautiful foliage, but this formulation is not best for rooting.

For growing vegetables hydroponically, 5-11-26 – lots of flowers and stems.
For orchids that go deciduous in winter, 0-52-34 – produces lots of roots, and triple stems on phalaenopsis, but is not easy to find. After flowering, switch back to 20-20-20.

Organic fertilizers are mostly nitrogen; they cost much more but don’t pollute as much. Organic rose fertilizer is available. Great for ferns, orchids, bromeliads, and begonias. Bone meal will produce shorter petioles, stronger plants, and better roots.

Pest Control – Snails, slugs and raccoons will all be repelled by using lots of coffee grounds. This has beneficial effects around azaleas, camellias, gardenias, dieffenbachias, aglaonemas, angel trumpets and lots more. Plants will root right into it. Coffee grinds will also rid plants of ants and millipedes. It can be applied 5 – 6” thick and even more, just not up against the trunk. Diatomaceous earth will also rid plants of snails, slugs, and cockroaches. It disappears after irrigation or rain, so has to be reapplied. It can be irritating; must not be breathed in – its like ground glass. Diatomaceous earth and neem oil - work against pests, but have to be reapplied.

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