Begonia hybrida. Half-hardy perennial
One of the most remarkable achievements in modern horticulture is the
splendid development of single and double Tuberous-rooted Begonias from
the plant as first introduced from the Andes. Originally the flowers
were small, imperfect in form, and deficient in range
of colour. But experts were quick in apprehending the capabilities of this graceful plant, and it proved to be unusually amenable to the hybridiser's efforts. Now the large symmetrical blossoms of both single and double flowers challenge attention for beauty of form and an almost endless variation of tints peculiar to the Tuberous-rooted Begonia. The plants are conspicuous ornaments of the conservatory and greenhouse for several months, and experience has proved that they make unique bedders, enduring unfavourable conditions of weather which are fatal to many of the older bedding subjects. From the best strains of seed it is easy, with a little patience, to raise a fine stock of plants, possessing the highest decorative qualities. Under generous treatment the seedlings from a January or February sowing come into bloom during July and August. The seed should be sown in well-drained pots containing a good compost at the bottom, with fine sandy loam on the surface, pressed down. Before sowing sprinkle the soil with water, and sow the seed evenly, barely covering it with fine earth. A temperature of about 65 deg. is suitable. Germination is both slow and irregular, and the plants must be pricked off into pans or small pots as fast as they become large enough to handle. This process should be followed up so long as seedlings appear and require transferring. They may be shifted on as the growth of the several plants may require. Begonias need more attention with reference to an even temperature during this stage than at any other period. The merits of Begonias as bedding plants are now recognised in many gardens, and they deserve to be still more widely grown. It is wise to defer planting out until June. In the open ground they produce abundant supplies of flowers for cutting at the end of September and early in October, when many other flowers are over. The plants should be put out when they show themselves sufficiently strong, and it is better to be guided by the plants than by any fixed date. The beds must be freely enriched with well-rotted manure and decayed vegetable matter; it can scarcely be overdone, for Begonias are gross feeders. The earliest plants to flower will often be retained in the greenhouse, as they follow in succession the Cinerarias and Calceolarias. Those that start later may be turned out as they come into bloom, which will probably be in June. By deferring the planting out until there is a show of bloom a selection of various shades of colour is possible, and this will greatly enhance the beauty of the beds. Begonias are hardier than is generally supposed; they need no protection, and require no heat, except in the stage of seedlings, when first forming their tubers. For autumn decoration Begonias should be taken up from the beds during September and potted, when they will continue to bloom in the greenhouse or conservatory for a considerable time, and form a useful addition to the flowering plants of that period. If not required for autumn decoration, let the plants remain out as long as may be safe; then pot off, and place in the greenhouse. Be careful not to hasten the drying of the bulbs. When the stems fall Begonias may be stored for their season of rest, allowing them to remain in the same pots. They can be put away in a dry cellar, or on the ground, covered up with sand, in any shed or frame where the bulbs will remain dry and be protected from frost. Both damp and cold are very injurious to them. The temperature during their season of rest should be kept as near 50 deg. as possible. When they show signs of growth in spring they must be put into small-sized pots, almost on the surface of the soil. As growth increases shift into larger sizes, inserting the bulb a little deeper each time until the crown is covered. BEGONIA, FIBROUS-ROOTEDl Begonia semperflorens. Half-hardy perennial Fibrous-rooted Begonias are exceedingly valuable for either bedding in summer or greenhouse decoration during the autumn and winter. They produce a continual succession of flowers, rather small in size, but very useful for bouquets, and the plants are charming as table ornaments. The directions for sowing and after-treatment recommended for the Tuberous-rooted class will be suitable also for the Fibrous-rooted varieties, except that the latter must always be kept in a growing state, instead of being dried off at the end of the flowering season. Sow seed at the end of January or in February, and again at the beginning of March. Under fair treatment the first batch of plants will come into flower for bedding out in June.
Next: CALCEOLARIA, HERBACEOUS
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