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 Plants (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 too...........
"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 about this)
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 fall. ** (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 Society ***(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 the past.
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 .............<g>
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