Hartley Magazine

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Begonias in Greenhouses

Best Begonias Combine Beauty and Easy Care

On a recent visit to Texas, I got lucky at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden (www.fwbg.com). I had the good fortune to tour the Begonia Bank’s collection of rare and endangered plants. Affable begonia curator Deborah Garrett explained that their mission is to preserve begonias from around the world. They share plants with other growers and institutions and educate the public about all things begonia. Deborah also gave me a great tip for making a simple begonia terrarium.

The long greenhouse tables displayed masses of both species and cultivars—from the tiniest vulnerable pink leaves growing inside misty terrariums, to robust vines tracking their way up roof supports—a begonia paradise.

Begonia crassicaulis from Guatemala sported shiny deeply lobed leaves. Nearby B. brivirimosa showed off ten-inch heart-shaped foliage of deep pink and bright green. South African native B. dregei partita, looked like a miniature tree, with tiny green leaves rising over trunk-like rhizomes.

Five for Beauty and Easy Care

Fascinated by the myriad species, I asked Deborah which would be the most popular begonias for homeowners to try. She named the angel wing cultivars. Hybridized from B. coccinea, the dramatic wing-like foliage is coupled with easy-going habits. They thrive in either greenhouse or sunny windowsill.

  • B. ‘Susie’ — features the classic elongated leaves. Bright white speckles splash the foliage with dark green along the ribs.
  • B. ‘Titan’ — lives up to its titanic name with handsome foot-long deep gray-green leaves.
  • B. ‘Tippy’ — is outstanding with perfect silvery polka dots on shiny green foliage.
  • B. ‘Spotted Dianna’ — spreads the silver in more elongated drops of color on a green background.
  • B. ‘Sinbad’ — presents nearly all-white leaves on handsome red stems. Slivers of green appear along the leaf margins.

Best Re-Purposed Terrarium Tip
At one end of the greenhouse stood a series of shelves holding rows of the most fragile and often most rare begonias, each in its own round plastic terrarium. The enclosures allow higher humidity than the greenhouse atmosphere offers.

Then Deborah explained that the terrariums were actually two clear plastic salad bowls, one inverted on top of the other, their rims held together with three small hair clips—the kind that look like curved teeth. She said that in the collection, if a begonia isn’t thriving, they pop it into one of these containers. The bowls make a practical and elegant container anyone can use in home or greenhouse.