Friday, September 17, 2010

Hardy begonia

When I received my tiny bulbs in the spring from Brent and Becky's I was very dubious. I received replacements for some rotten ones when I asked, and then didn't hold out much hope for their growth.

But here they are. Begonia grandis ssp. evansiana. Two plants have matured into large, 16" tall, healthy specimens, and a third is less happy. That is because it receives overhead sun for a few hours. The happiest is in full shade all day, in the lee of my southern wall, and the one inbetween, with a couple of sun hours, has slightly chloritic-looking leaves, proving that hardy begonias really do need full shade.

This is a wonderful autumn flower, blooming far later than you think it will, and lasting a lot longer. My largest plant is in the smallest pot - a laughable 6" inches across, but gets lots of water and food, and will have to be transplanted in the late fall for overwintering.

I was hesitant about choosing the pink begonia, having worked with the white before, and I think my hesitation was well-founded, at least for me. I just prefer the white (Begonia grandis "Album"). But as these stems become more floriferous I may change my mind.

They are low maintenance, lush plants, and far more graceful than the squat begonia balls that are planted in red and white tattoos in seas of red mulch every summer, everywhere. Although I admit I have a couple of those, too (white!), leftovers from when I planted (cheap) flowers on the steps of our brownstone.

Finally, ever since our Abyssinian cat, Minky, ate begonia flowers in my mother's Constantia garden, I have nibbled them, too. They taste sour and crisp, like sorrel (Oxalis)...oh my goodness. Oxalic acid. Is that why oxalis is called oxalis? Because that is what they - the begonias - contain. A few flowers in salad are fine. Don't eat handfuls.

Now I'm going to meet a project manager at a controversial new building in Carroll Gardens which needs gardens.

We'll see.
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