I am going to plagurize something that's in a GREAT book I have in my garden
book collection. I am posting this in hopes that Felder Rushing doesn't come
up here and till under my constipated fairy gardens, but this piece in the
book occurred to me when I was talking to another gardener about my own
plants and sharing them with her.
Again, I mean no malice towards Felder or Stephen concerning this book. It's
a must have in a serious garden book collector who loves a good read. I
have alot of these types of books along with the reference ones. This is my
absolute favorite and will remain so always. I have given this book as a
gift for as long as I could FIND it........
I'm speaking about my perennial begonia's. I didn't think about them once I
got them from Mary Emma, but now that I have them, I apparently HAVE them.
And thankfully they're spreading. So without further adeu..............
"All I know about Hardy Begonia" as written by Felder Rushing in Passalong
(with my own observations at the bottom)
Common name: hardy begonia, Botanical name: Begonia grandis (B. evansiana)
Type; herbaceous perennial. Size: 2 feet tall. Hardiness: Zones 6-9.
Origin: China, Japan. Light: light shade. Soil; humusy, moist, well
drained. Growth rate:moderate. and there are possible mail order sources
"Let me state right off that I'm no begonia expert. About all I really know
about them is that there are lots of different kinds. In addition to the
common wax begonias, sold by the ton at garden centers for bedding out,
there are thousands of angel-wing, Rex, beefsteak, and otherh nonhardy,
pot-culture cultivars, which clog greenhouse benches and inundate flower
shows. Some have been passed along as cuttings for decades.
But until Mix Conner, a local gardening friend, called and asked me to drop
by and see about her ailing azaleas, I had no idea there was any such animal
as a hardy begonia. Oh, I'd read some mail-order ads about a begonia that
lived thru the winter, but I didn't really believe it. My visit to Mix
Conner's garden changed all that.
It turned out that her soil was too wet and the west sun too hot for her
asaleas. But the shade provided by her sick shrubs combined with the
constant moisture from her hillside seep was just right for hardy begonias.
These happy plants sprouted among the azaleas, ran alongside the house,
turned the corner, and ambled down a slope.
The only place in town that I have seen hardy begonias since is beside a
moist brick wall by an old garden house. The gardeners there had tried
transplanting them many times to other areas where the soil was hard and
dry, but the plants remained stunted at best. *(madgardener's note at bottom
If you're as unfamiliar as I was with hardy begonia, you'll need to be told
that it blends sturdy stems with angel-wing foliage, an upright growth
habit, and a dependable profusion of small pink blooms in late summer and
(more from maddie) In many wildflower and woodland gardens, it
supplies the only bright color in August and September.
I don't know why hardy begonia is so rare, because propagating it is simple.
You can root cuttings, divide the tuberous roots, or grow it from seed.
Few garden books or magazines contain any reference to hardy begonia. In
one that does, The New Orleans Garden, author Charlotte Seidenberg writes
that the plant is winter-hardy to New York but also tolerates her hot, wet
summers. If it's that adaptable, I guess it should grow in my garden. The
start Mix Conner gave me is beginning to spread along the side of my house.
Until I'm sure it wil thrive there, however, I'll take the advice of
Atlanta's Phil Colson, recent president of the Georgia Perennial Plant
*(side note), on growing "iffy" perennials; " ' For their first
three yeaers in the garden, keep perennials on 'roller skates,'moving them
around until you find the spot they like best. Then just leave 'em alone."
Well, that's about all I know about hardy begonia---except to mention that
I've heard of an intriguing white-flowered cultivar, which I've got to have
if it exists. Do I dare contact the Begonia Society?"
* once you've got these established, they'll reseed with hilarious abandon
wherever they want to. I have them under the black cherry tree in the shade
bed under there where it's rapidly taking over any available spaces, hanging
over the bricko blocks I've edged the western side of the bed with, having
them sprout up between the cracks of the driveway and cinder
blocks.....where I laid down a clump of them in the NSSG, they've spilled
over the actual bed and are happier living UNDER the cedar trunk that serves
as the edge of the bed where the soil trickles under the tree trunk. Over on
the western side of the house, where there are more raised beds than there
is paths to walk on, I have them in the central bed that previously was
known as the "Colorado" bed. It's changed it's flavor since I've named it
and I'm still waiting for an appropriate name to come to me......but it
lives happily in that rich, raised bed that gets strong indirect south and
western sunlight and because it's raised soil, dries out rather quickly.
Just down from that, under the Vitex bush and mingled in with an assortment
of other shady things is another clump of them which aren't as hale and
hardy as the rest. But given time I hope they will establish themselves
further down the slope towards the woods. I also have another starting
clump of them in the black walnut/hosta box on the north side that I haven't
paid attention to this year, but will check on later today.
I also love and adore these angel wing beauties for the intricate deep
red veining of the undersides of their leaves that provides me with subtle
colors when there's only greens, yellows and such. You can sit under them
and look upwards towards the light and be floored and impressed every time
you see the intricate veining that each leaf holds to itself.
* as for growing these "iffy" plants, I've discovered that they're more
apt to reseed themselves because those incredible flowers produce these cute
as hell triangular seed pods that have dust fine seeds. I pulled up 98% of
Mary Emma's last year that wound up in three garbage bags and gave out all
but one half of one bag and everyone I gave them to has reported back to me
that they've all come up this year. They sorta appear when you least expect
them in the late spring, and I haven't seen evidence of tubers in mine, but
I always share a clump that is flowering and tell the person I'm giving a
hunk to to plant the shallow root and soil of it and make sure the seeds
ripen. Not to pick off the triangles or flowers. Having a silver leafed
house begonia to flower for me this year and seeing it's seed pods, I now
realize this triangular shape is indigenous of begonia's. Maybe this is why
the red stemmed, red leafed, red flowered bedding begonia's would sometimes
return for some of my friend's customers she landscaped their beds with in
I personally can't have enough of them, and when Mary Emma tells me she
can't tell I've pulled up all of hers, I willingly go over to her house and
remove the bulk of them for her again. I can always use more
Like I said, I hope that I don't tick Felder Rushing off in posting this. I
think the piece he wrote about them is most adequate and thankful that they
included a picture of them to confirm that these are what I've stumbled
across myself here in Eastern Tennessee. The whole book is a wonderful
read, worthy of returning to again and again. I only wish he and Steven
Bender would write another one................Oh and the last thing I was
going to remark on is when he spoke of Phil Colson being the president of
the Georgia Perennial Plant Society, that was back in 1993................
Anyone wanting their own incredible copy of this book it's Passalong Plants
by Felder Rushing and Steve Bender with a foreword by Allen Lacy The
University of North Carolina Press and Chapel Hill & London at the time I
got it it cost me $22. WELL worth it.........
madgardener up on the ridge, back in fairy holler where the hardy begonia's
are blooming themselves to death at the moment and are an integral componant
in my gardens. Overlooking English Mountain, in Eastern Tennessee zone 7
(used to be 6b) Sunset zone 36