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Begonia browsing - where to see spectacular blooming, how to order tubers.

Begonia browsing Where to see spectacular blooming, how to order tubers An august visit to a tuberous begonia nursery can be a feast for the senses; rows of startling, seductive plants flaunt spectacular, waxy-looking flowers, some as big as a dinner plates.

This month is your best chance to buy plants in full bloom so you know just what you're getting. It's also a good time to take note of flower forms and colors if you're planning to mail-order tubers during the winter dormant season.

Although the nurseries are in coastal California, you can grow begonias in any climate where summers aren't extremely hot. Excellent in containers and hanging baskets, tuberous begonias can also be clustered in planting beds. Upright kinds grow to about 1 1/2 feet with big, deep green leaves on a single stem. Hanging types branch readily and feature dozens of down-facing blossoms.

Begonias come in white and shades of cream, yellow, orange, pink, and red, plus bicolor combinations and picotees (solid color with a contrasting petal edge). Flower form generally falls into one of two groups: rose-like blooms or ruffly flowers that suggest a camellia-carnation cross. A healthy plant should give repeat performance for several summers--in some cases, as many as 15 years.

Choosing favorites . . . at three California nurseries

At the following specialty nurseries, you can buy begonias in full bloom now or preview for later purchase. You'll also find tuberous begonias at many general nurseries this month.

Antonelli Bros. Begonia Gardens, 2545 Capitola Rd., Santa Cruz 95062; (408) 475-5222. Open 8 to 5 daily.

Carmel Valley Begonia Gardens, 9220 Carmel Valley Rd. (6 miles east of State Highway 1), Carmel Valley 93924; (408) 624-7231. Open 9 to 5 daily except Wednesdeys.

Weidners' Begonia Gardens, 695 Normandy Rd., Encinitas 92024; (619) 436-5326. Open 10 to 5 daily mid-June through mid-September.

Look for stout plants with perfectly formed flowers; on upright kinds, flowers shouldn't nod. Plants in gallon-size cans cost $3 to $10.

Ordering tubers in fall or winter Mail-order catalogs offer dormant tubers at bargain prices. Most are seed-grown, so plants vary in flower form, color, and size; you may order an orange-flowering plant, but the shade of orange remains a mystery until next summer. For more predictable results, you can buy named-variety begonias--some are cutting-grown (these have identical traits), others are seed strains (plants may vary slightly).

For the best mail-order selection, send now for catalogs of dealers listed following, then order as soon as you get them (some may not arrive until January). Catalogs are free unles noted. Price range given is per tuber; premium tubers are costliest but produce fuller plants with more flowers.

Antonelli Bros. Begonia Gardens, address on page 162. Catalog $1. Regular, premium, and named seed-strain tubers; $1.50 to $4.

Blackmore & Langdon Ltd., Pensford, Bristol, England. Regular tubers and cutting-grown named varieties; $1 to $14 plus postage and health inspection. Send $1 for catalog.

W. Atlee Burpee Co., 300 Park Ave., Warminster, Pa. 18991. Regular premium, and named seed-strain tubers; $1.15 to $4.

Geo. W. Park Seed Co., Box 31, Greenwood, S.C. 29647. Regular tubers; $2 to $3.

Wayside Gardens, Hodges, S.C. 29695. Regular tubers; $1 to $1.50.

White Flower Farm, Litchfield, Conn. 06759. Catalogs $5 annually. Seed-grown regular and premium tubers, and some Blackmore & Langdon named-variety tubers; $4 to $18.

How to grow: sun and soil needs

Mail-ordered tubers will arrive between February and April. Unpack immediately and check for pink growth buds.

If tubers haven't sprounted, place them, concave side up, in a nursery flat or berry baskets. Store in a dry place where they won't freeze, checking periodically for signs of growth.

Bury sprouting tubers in a nursery flat filled with coarse leaf mold; keep moist. When plants are 4 inches tall--in about two months--they're ready to transplant.

Whether you've started them from tubers or bough nursery plants, you can move them into 8- to 10-inch pots; use a fast-draining soil mix and a controlled-release complete fertilizer. To plant in the ground, dig abundant compost or ground bark, plus fertilizer, into the soil. Stake and tie upright plants, taking care not to pierce the tuber when inserting the stake. Suspend hanging types high so you can look up into the bloom cluster.

Keep soil mix moist but not soggy. When plants lose foliage in fall, lift tubers and store until pink buds reappear in spring.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Article Type:Directory
Date:Aug 1, 1985
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