Fabulous Friday: B. ‘Sofia’ Blooms

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The first blooms of the season just appeared on our most stunning cane Begonia, ‘Sophia.’  This Begonia has the largest, most dramatic leaves of all the Begonia‘s we grow.

When I originally ordered it several years ago from Garden Harvest Supply Com., it was advertised as having dark purple leaves, with splashes of silver, that can appear almost black on top. The undersides of the leaves are a beautiful maroon.  Little mention was made of its flowers.  The leaves are the main attraction on this Begonia, and they are lovely year round whether the plant is grown indoors or outside.

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What the catalog description didn’t warn me about was this plant’s size!  It grows enthusiastically, with huge leaves and towering  canes.  When I cut back the canes to prevent the plant from falling over, and put those canes in water, they quickly root.  Which means, that we have a growing collection of pots of this beautiful, but gargantuan, Begonia. 

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A potted B. ‘Sophia’ grows between an oakleaf Hydrangea and Edgeworthia, lit by the early morning sun.

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We enjoy this Begonia in our home from late October through early May.  Once it comes outside, it loses some of its winter leaves, but quickly replaces them with larger, more intense ones.  Now, after nearly three months of brighter light and moist heat, it is ready to cover itself in sprays of small, pink flowers.  Cane Begonias flower generously once they get going!

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B. ‘Sophia’ beginning to bloom.  Its canes look much like bamboo.  New side shoots can grow from each leaf node.  Pinching out the growth tip encourages new side shoots to form.

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This was the last Begonia cultivar we have been waiting for to bloom this year.  It joins our many other varieties filling pots and baskets in the shady areas of our forest garden.  These large plants use a tremendous amount of water each day.  In hot weather, they may need watering every day. Water twice a day if the plants look stressed.

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Another cane Begonia, ‘Arabian Sunset’ blooms continually from May through October.  I originally purchased this variety from a farmer’s market, and gave it to my dad for Father’s Day.  We have kept it going from cuttings for nearly 20 years.  I’ve not seen it offered for sale, since.

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They will have better color and more flowers if you feed them regularly, too, with enriched soil, timed release fertilizer such as Osmocote, and also a boost from a liquid feed from time to time.  I use Neptune’s Harvest in a watering can several times a month during summer for Begonias kept out in the garden.  Begonias kept indoors, or on our deck, get a very diluted drink of a water soluble fertilizer formulated for orchids. It certainly isn’t organic; but it doesn’t have a a strong odor and the plants respond with abundant growth.

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Large cane Begonias give our garden a rich texture.  Grow them in a large pot, and consider underplanting them with miniature Hosta, low growing ferns, ivy, Heuchera, Dichondra,  small Caladiums, or other, lower growing Begonias.  If you don’t cover the soil with a companion planting, then mulch the soil with moss or fine gravel to both conserve moisture and make a more finished presentation.

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Begonia ‘Richmondensis’ is an angel wing Begonia which performs well in a hanging basket.

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Just keep in mind, as summer draws to a close, that cane Begonias, like ‘Sophia’ are tropical plants and hate to be cold.  Bring them indoors before night time temperatures drop into the 40s in your garden.

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Another large cane Begonia that I’ve grown for many years, I’ve lost track of the cultivar name for this one.

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But we still have several months to enjoy these fabulous plants out in our garden.

If you’ve not yet tried growing cane Begonias, be confident that you can manage their simple needs.  These are long-lived companion plants which will grow, and multiply, for many years to come.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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“Wait for that wisest of all counselors, Time.”
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Pericles
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Begonia “Sophia” blooming in March of 2014

 

Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is Contagious, Let’s infect one another!

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Blossom XXVI: Angel Wing Begonia

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Clusters of tiny dangling heart shaped flowers in soft pink, white, or cherry red burst into bloom on our cane Begonias in June.

New leaves have emerged over the last few weeks to replace those lost last winter.  Now that they have adjusted to their summer spots, our Begonias are coming into bloom.   Although simple, these lovely flowers create drama in their abundance.

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Often called ‘Angel Wing Begonias,’ there are so many hybrids and cultivars that it is nearly impossible to keep up with proper names for these beautiful plants. Their oddly shaped leaves in beautiful colors, often with silvery markings, are even more beautiful than their flowers.

These Begonias are sturdy plants, enjoying heat and humidity, filtered light, generous feeding when in bloom, and tight pots.

Their almost woody canes can grow to prodigious lengths when left to their own devices.  Pruning keeps the plants bushier, and those pruned canes root easily in water and filtered light.

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This plant is one of many I’ve started from rooted canes.  Bits of this cultivar, whose name I lost track of years ago, grow in dozens of pots and baskets in our summer garden.

I planted it up last summer, in a pot where I’d also planted divisions of Hosta ‘Mouse Ears.’  It outgrew that pot over winter, and was moved into this new pot in April.  I like the combination of miniature Hosta and cane Begonia, and will remember this pleasing combination for future plantings.

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Cane Begonias prove a good ‘pass along plant.’  I nearly always have canes rooting in vases of water, ready to give to willing garden visitors.  They root easily, grow easily, and mature into impressive plants.

Too tender to overwinter outdoors, they easily withstand the limited winter light indoors.  Sometimes, in a sunny spot, they can even be coaxed back into bloom in January or February.

If you’ve not grown cane Begonias, you might enjoy giving them a try.  Their blossoms, when they appear, are almost magical.

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Woodland Gnome 2017
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Winter Houseguests: The Begonias

 

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Our Begonias move inside sometime in late October.  And we entertain them for the wintery half of the year, until they can go back out to the fresh air and sunshine in late April.  We add a few new cultivars every year, and every year it seems the collection grows from cuttings, too.

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They show appreciation with fresh flowers and new growth, glowing in the rare winter sunshine.

Begonias reward their grower with gorgeous foliage whether in bloom, or not.  Their leaves may be plain or spotted, round, curlique, angel wing, shiny or dull.  Some are gargantuan; others remain quite small. You’ll find Begonias with any color leaves from apple green to purply black.

Like Heucheras, some cultivars’ leaves are even orange!

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Although most of our Begonias spend winter camping out in the garage, a few make the cut to live in the house with the cat and the gardeners.  They drop many of their summer leaves in our arid heated home,  but new ones will take their place by early summer.

Begonias prefer to dry out a little between waterings.  Even so, I try to check them and top them off several times a week.  I offer well-diluted Orchid food a few times a month to those in the house, to keep them growing and encourage them to bloom.

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This Begonia blooms almost continually. A tall Angel Wing type, its stems will grow to 6" or more if you don't prune them back.

This Begonia blooms almost continually in bright light. A tall Angel Wing type, its stems will grow to 6″ or more if you don’t prune them back.

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Late winter is a great time to find B. Rex, and other small Begonia cuttings growing in tiny pots.  I picked up two new cultivars last weekend at the Great Big Greenhouse in Richmond.  Neither was named, but one was sold as a ‘dwarf Begonia‘ and has the tiniest leaves I’ve found on a Begonia, yet.  I am looking forward to learning what this one does over time.

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The 'dwarf' Begonia I found at the Great Big Greenhouse last weekend. These are the tiniest Begonia leaves I've ever seen!

The ‘dwarf’ Begonia I found at the Great Big Greenhouse last weekend. These are the tiniest Begonia leaves I’ve ever seen!

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The other is an Angel Wing type, and likely will make a good hanging basket plant.  Small and inexpensive now, I can find a little place  for  these grow indoors over the next few months.  Each new Begonia will grow  large enough to look good in a pot or hanging basket basket by the time it is warm enough to move them out for the summer.

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Although a tiny rooted cutting now, this will likely grow into a standard sized Begonia by early summer.

Although a tiny rooted cutting now, this will likely grow into a standard sized Begonia by early summer.

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If your gardener’s fingers are itching to grow, but it is still too cold to work outside, please consider adopting a Begonia.

It will prove a rewarding companion so long as you can provide bright, indirect light and temperatures of 50F or above.  These beautiful plants want to live.  Even if you make a mistake or two along the way, most will recover and come back strong.

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When you need to prune them back, the cuttings will root well in water.   In just a few weeks, your rooted cutting will be ready for a pot of its own.   A few rooted cuttings planted in a basket in April will grow into a gorgeous  display by July.

 

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This is a second rooted cutting I picked up last weekend of the same Begonia cultivar. This two piece pot has a reservoir to keep the soil evenly moist. How cute!

This is a second rooted cutting I picked up last weekend of the same Begonia cultivar. This two piece pot has a reservoir to keep the soil evenly moist. How cute!

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 Long lived and companionable, Begonias make agreeable winter house guests, freshening the air and filling one’s home with beauty.

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Woodland Gnome 2017

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Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day: August

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“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”
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Lady Bird Johnson

Butterflies drift on the summer breeze from flower to flower in search of nectar; I find an earthbound path of my own, camera in hand, to drink in their beauty.

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August finds our garden filled with flowers.  Some, like the roses, struggle with this late summer heat to pump out a few small flowers here and there.  But others, like our spider lily are just getting started with their annual show.  Our fall flowers have begun to fill the garden with fierce, stubborn color.

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Lycoris radiata, or Red Spider Lily, blooms in late summer.

Lycoris radiata, or Red Spider Lily, blooms in late summer.

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“I must have flowers, always, and always.”

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Claude Monet

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Basil attracts many pollinators

Basil attracts many pollinators

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Butterflies have their favorites, just as I have mine.  Lantana flowers always draw butterflies, and hummingbirds sometimes, too.  Many of the flowers in our garden are selected especially for their appeal to butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and interesting nectar-loving insects.

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Our Cannas and Salvias delight the hummingbirds.  But I plant many herbs, and let them flower, for the nectar they provide.  They may not be the showiest of flowers, but they are good for the wildlife we hope to attract.

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When allowed to bloom, Coleus provides abundant nectar and attracts many pollinators.

When allowed to bloom, Coleus provides abundant nectar and attracts many pollinators.

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“If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it,

it’s your world for a moment.”

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Georgia O’Keeffe

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Begonia 'Flamingo'

Begonia ‘Flamingo’

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Some of the Begonias, too, have finally covered themselves in flowers.  Simple and delicate, Begonia flowers come only when the mother plant is happy.  Ours have finally recovered from their winter indoors with vigorous new growth.

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We grow several different sorts of Begonias, each with its own unique leaf and flower.

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They all grow in pots or baskets so we can keep them from one year to the next, and most root very easily from stem cuttings.

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It is good to cut back the cane Begonias, especially, as the stems will grow many feet long.  Prunings go into a vase of water to soon begin life again in a new pot either in our garden, or as a gift to a friend.

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Also a Begonia, this grows from a tuber and produces flowers like tiny roses.

Also a Begonia, this one grows from a tuber and produces flowers like tiny roses. Oxalis blooms beside it.

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“It is only by selection, by elimination,

and by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things.”

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Georgia O’Keeffe

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Begonia 'Richmondensis' with Caladium

Begonia ‘Richmondensis’ with Caladium

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Late summer brings its own ‘woody’ flowers, too.  Rose of Sharon, butterfly bush, Crepe Myrtle, and Hydrangea all cover themselves in flowers each August.

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So does a very odd plant, Aralia spinosa, also known as ‘The Devil’s Walking Stick’ for its exceptionally thorny stem.

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Aralia spinosa in bloom

Aralia spinosa in bloom

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This small tree crowns itself with a cloud of tiny, greenish-yellow flowers which soon swell into a cloud of dark inky purple berries.  Another plant to delight wildlife, this one is not so delightful in the garden.  It spreads by seeds and underground runners.

But my gardening philosophy tends towards, ‘The more, the merrier!’  It is a very laissez-faire approach, admittedly.  But it serves us well, in this forest garden.

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Echinacea 'Green Jewel'

Echinacea ‘Green Jewel’

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“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”

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Oscar Wilde

Many thanks to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day on the 15th of each month.  When last I looked, Carol had nearly 50 other gardeners sharing links to their posts this August.  Just looking through these virtual garden tours is a fun way to see what others are doing and to find fresh inspiration.

I hope you will visit Carol’s post, and as many of the other links as time allows.

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If  ‘A flower blossoms for its own joy,’ we photograph and admire them for our own. 

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I have created a series of flower portraits this summer, simply called ‘Blossom.’  This simple posting format has brought me a great deal of joy and comfort over the last few weeks.  It has allowed me to post when no words would come.

Flowers, no matter their size or color,  delight.  Perhaps it is their very fragility which begs us to appreciate them in the moment.  If we procrastinate, they may be gone.

Certainly, they each have their season, as do we.

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Two dear members of our family have passed from this Earthly life over the past few weeks.  We still miss them keenly.  Their passing has reminded each of us who loved them to share our love, our joy, and our appreciation with those we care for, as often as we can.

We can not afford to put off to tomorrow that which we may enjoy today.  Our lives prove as ephemeral as the flowers which fascinate us.

We are all creatures in time, and so must make the time to share the beauty and wonders of this life; and to share it with those we love.

Woodland Gnome 2016
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In Loving Memory of

Rachel Mae Downs-Lewis  1975-2016

In Loving Memory of

Patty Jo “Tinker’  Rishworth  1961-2016

Beloved Begonias

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Beloved Begonias,
Bejeweled, bold;
Bewildering in their variety,
Exotic,  erotic, esoteric, ephemeral
Exuberant-
Phenomenally fantastic;
Tropical travelers,
Insidiously intrepid.
Comforting companions,
Hairy, huge and hard to find;
Beautiful Begonias!
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Woodland Gnome 2016
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July 26, 2016 leaves 042

 

Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day: June

This little Acer Plamatum germinated in my parents' garden this spring.  I brought it home to grow on, here in a large pot with ferns and Caladiums.

This little Acer Palmatum germinated in my parents’ garden this spring. I brought it home to grow on, here in a large pot with ferns and Caladiums.

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Our world is leafy green this month; a thousand shades of green.  Yet there are many more colors found glowing on leaves in our garden.

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Coleus

Coleus

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Layer upon layer of leaves extend themselves to catch the sun’s rays.

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Canna lilies have reached about half their final height.  Hibiscus, behind them, will bloom with scarlet flowers in a few weeks.

Canna lilies have reached about half their final height. Hibiscus, behind them, will bloom with scarlet flowers in a few weeks.

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From the Oaks’ canopies down to the tiny chartreuse leaves of creeping Jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, which blanket parts of our garden; leaves bask in summer’s brilliant sunshine.

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I ventured into new territory last summer when planting a border of tall Canna lilies, given by a friend, and elephant ear Colocasia.  Both are well up now with the Cannas bursting into bloom.

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They will continue growing for a few weeks, topping out above head high with blooms through the summer.

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Tall, perennial Hibiscus join these tropical looking, large plants in the front border.  I’ve extended the grouping to a new area in the lower garden where growth has been slow.

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Colocasia 'Mojito'

Colocasia ‘Mojito’

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There is less light here, and the Cannas were purchased as roots just this spring.  I hope they will catch up in the summer heat and make a good show by mid-summer.

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They border the new bog garden, filled now with pitcher plants, Sarraceniaceae, which are native to the mid-Atlantic coast; with the African rose Hibiscus; Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’ and Coleus.  Two pots of milkweed grow here, too, in our hope to draw in Monarch butterflies.

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Oxalis triangularis has struggled here because deer frequently graze these beautiful burgundy leaves.

Oxalis triangularis has struggled here because deer frequently graze these beautiful burgundy leaves.

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The border of Oxalis I planted with such confidence in May is nearly gone, grazed by rogue deer who have somehow snuck into the garden through our fences.  I’ve sprayed what remains with deer repellent and hope they will re-grow from the tubers.

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This Oxalis has been protected with a clove of garlic grown here since fall.  In more shade, there are no flowers and darker leaves.  A division of hardy Begonia can be seen at the top of the photo, and a division of fern to the far right.  These will fill in fairly quickly.

This Oxalis has been protected with a clove of garlic grown here since fall.  In more shade, there are no flowers and darker leaves. A division of hardy Begonia can be seen at the top of the photo, and a division of fern to the far right. These will fill in fairly quickly.

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Oxalis is supposed to be ‘deer resistant,’ but anyone who gardens near deer understands the humor of that phrase.

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Voodoo lily and a division of Colocasia 'China Pink' grow in front of our Edgeworthia in part shade.

Voodoo lily and a division of Colocasia ‘China Pink’ grow in front of our Edgeworthia in part shade.  Rudbeckia, to the right, will bloom golden in July.  I just love these spotted stems!

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Our collection of poisonous plants has grown this summer to include the “Voodoo Lily,” Sauromatum venosum, bought at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in April; and a hardy Calla lily, just ordered from Plant Delights Nursery near Raleigh, NC.

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I was pleased to learn that Calla, native to South Africa, is in fact poisonous.  The poisonous leaves have more staying power in our garden, and do no harm to those who aren’t grazing them!

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Helebores, also poisonous, protects this pot from grazing.  The Heuchera would be munched if unprotected.

Hellebore, also poisonous, protects this pot from grazing. The Heuchera would be munched if unprotected.

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There are many more leaves to share, but you’ll see them as the summer unfolds.

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We continue to plant ferns, and we’ve added several new cultivars this year.

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We have also found several interesting cultivars of scented Pelargonium.  This rose scented Pelargonium grows in a pot with Ajuga.

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Herbs smell wonderful on hot sunny days, and have such beautiful foliage.

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 I appreciate Christina, who gardens in the Hesperides,  for hosting this Garden Blogger’s Foliage Day meme on the 22nd of each month. She challenges us to focus on the foliage in our gardens; not just the flowers.

Please visit her and follow as many links as you can to enjoy beautiful foliage posts photographed in a variety of different gardens.

But, before you do, we will end with a few more photos of my beloved Begonias:

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There will be another Begonia post soon.  These beauties continue growing better each week.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Mystery Begonia

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Do you know her name?

I would love to know, although she is wonderful whether named or not.

I found this lovely Begonia in a farmer’s market plant stall nearly 10 years ago, and bought her on sight… as a gift for my dad.

He loved her, and kept her over winter in his solarium.  He gave me cuttings, and he and I have both grown those cuttings on and taken more ever since.

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We both grow this lovely Begonia now,  and I’ve passed on cuttings to many Begonia loving friends over the years.

This cane Begonia can grow fairly tall; to at least 3′.    Both stems and leaves are sumptuous red, and the generous bracts of  flowers rose pink.  She blooms year round, taking short breaks between outbreaks of loveliness.

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I keep this cane Begonia watered but not wet, and feed with dilute fertilizer monthly.  Cane Begonias have harder, waxier stems than the tuberous Begonias, and so don’t rot easily at the soil line when the soil is too wet.  These are sturdy, forgiving plants.

I  also sprinkle Osmocote on the soil two or three times each year, and trim back long canes from time to time when they get too lanky.   I always plop those pruned canes into a jar of water to allow them to root.

Cane Begonias prefer partial shade, but appreciate time out of doors in the summer.  When we first move them out, they often lose leaves for a few weeks.  These are quickly replaced with sturdier, brighter leaves ready to process the stronger light available in summer.

They don’t like cold or drafts and so come back inside before the weather turns cold.

Deer normally leave cane Begonias alone.  However, they will nibble leaves from time to time when especially hungry.  We’ve had deer somehow sneaking into our garden too frequently in recent weeks.  And they have grazed some of our cane Begonias.  Such a waste….

The remedy is to throw a few whole cloves of garlic into each pot.  Deer hate the aroma of garlic.  Although unsightly, the garlic will protect the plants from grazing.

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This is one of my favorite Begonias from cuttings.  I bought one plant a decade ago, and continue to start new ones from it.  I've given cuttings from this special Begonia to many friends.

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My father asked me to re-pot his red Begonia last weekend.  I think it might be the original plant…

We moved her up to a 14″ coir lined basket, gave her some fresh soil and a sprinkle of Osmocote; and hung her back in her shady summer spot.

Oh, the joy of a basket of cane Begonias in the summer.

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August 2, 2014 010

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She will cover herself in flowers through all of the warm months to come.

Do you know her name?  After many attempts to find this plant online, I’m finally asking for help.  Surely someone else has grown her, too, and can add a bit of information to aid my quest.

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May 25, 2015 foliage 049

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Woodland Gnome 2015

Winter Solstice

Grape Mahonia

Grape Mahonia

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Today is the winter solstice,the shortest day of the year.

We will enjoy just over nine hours of daylight today in Williamsburg, which is still five hours more than those in Iceland will see.

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Orchid in bud

Jewel Orchid in bud

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The sun hugs the horizon on these short, winter days, ascending to its lowest point in the sky all year, before falling back towards the sunset.

Instead of rising in the east, as it does at the Spring Equinox, the sun rises in the southeast at the furthest point along its seasonal journey.

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A walk in the garden finds evidence of buds and new life everywhere.

A walk in the garden finds evidence of buds and new life everywhere.

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Here, it rises 30 degree further south than it will in March.  Likewise, the sun sets in the southwest at Winter solstice, at its furthest point from due west.

The further north one observes from, the more the points of sunrise and sunset converge in the southern sky, and the lower above the horizon the sun appears at noon, if at all.

In the far north, the Winter Solstice is a time of darkness as though the sun has withdrawn from the world.

And yet today is the turning.  It is the beginning of a new solar year as the sun begins its return.

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Cane Begonias are blooming now indoors.

Cane Begonias are blooming now indoors.

 

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We are fortunate that at Winter solstice we are actually closer to the sun than we are in winter.  Even though the Northern Hemisphere is turned away, we are over 3 million miles closer to the sun than we will be in June, due to our elliptical orbit.  We are getting less solar radiation than we do in summer, but our close approach to the sun almost compensates for our shorter days, keeping our middle latitudes energized.

 

Christmas Cactus is blooming right on schedule.

Christmas Cactus is blooming right on schedule.

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And, we are surrounded with the promise of new life, a fresh beginning, a new year to live, and a new opportunity to nourish abundance and joy in our lives.

A simple walk around the garden offers abundant evidence of the seeds, buds, cones, and fruits which hold the promise of new life.  Even in winter, the trees are alive with birds and squirrels.  The deer graze in the ravine, and geese fly overhead calling to one another.

 Happy Winter Solstice.

We offer you our best wishes for good times, good health, good fortune, and abundant love

at this time as we celebrate the return of the sun, the turning of the year, and the festivals of light.

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December 17, 2014 wreath 007

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All photos by Woodland Gnome 2013-2014

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