NEIGHBORHOOD GARDEN FOR NOVEMBER 19, 2011

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BEGONIAS INSIDE

BY GLADYS JEURINK

          There are about 2,000 species of Begonias according to my plant encyclopedia. But the hybridizers have been working overtime to create many new varieties. One author divides them into cane stemmed, trailing, and bushy types. Another has seven groups.

          The cane stemmed are the ones we have as Angel Wings. As with all Begonias, too much water will cause their leaves to drop.  They dislike full sunshine so make a nice plant for lesser lighted spots. Without pruning they can reach 6 feet tall. They also need a fairly large pot to keep them from falling over.  Many (most) Angel Wings have interesting spots on their leaves. They root easily from cuttings.  Another author described the cane stemmed as fibrous rooted to separate them from rhizomatous and tuberous rooted ones. Temperatures must not go below 50 degrees F. 

          My favorite ones are the Rex Begonias as they have such a variation of leaf color and leaf design. The blooms are usually red or light pink, and small. They are listed as rhizomatous rooted.  Some of these are dwarf but others may become quite large. One of the first ones I remember is the Iron Cross-with crinkled, dark green leaves and a reddish cross figure in the center of the leaves.

           Begonia Rex (cultorum) may have leaves up to 12 inches long, and ten inches wide with some sharply cut edges. The flowers are small and I usually cut them off.  You may find one sold as a King Begonia.  They need temperatures above 60 degrees F. Those fleshy rhizomes rot easily if watered too much but they do like humid air, so a number of them planted fairly close together will be helpful.  When you repot, be careful not to press the soil too tight against those fat roots. As you add soil, just tap the pot to shake it down loosely.

          One of my Rexís is Cleopatra with 5 star pointed leaves about 8 inches across, a chartreuse background with deep brown veins. Since Rex likes humidity, I have them all together in a light but not sunny spot in the greenhouse-Marmaduke among them.  He is a fuzzy large leaf one with spectacular markings who get so big in summer outside he has to be chopped up to bring in. Other Rex Begonias have interesting names like Merry Christmas and Silver Queen. Flowers are generally in clusters of either male or female with the males being the larger.

          Fibrous Begonias (Begonia coralbina) grows a tangle of roots that fill a pot very fast.  The Angel Wings are fibrous and grow rapidly. Almost any size piece of the plant will root and grow. All Begonias need a loose, well drained (usually soilless) potting mix as their roots rot easily. They are heavy eaters of a high phosphorous fertilizer. It may be labeled especially for African Violets. There are dwarfs up to 12 inches tall and giants up to 3 feet in height and width. They usually bloom in late winter or early spring with pendant blooms and a great deal of variation among cultivars as to number and shape of spots.

          Tuberous Begonias are quite common as winter bloomers, having both male and female blooms. The males are larger and the ones we notice but are not very long lasting.  The Tuberous require a resting period between blooms. The tubers have a somewhat hollow top surface. To avoid water sitting in the hollow, one needs to water around the tuber. I try to be very careful about water on the leaves, and do not water during their rest period.  My favorite of this group are the Riegers that are covered with blooms in winter.       

          Then there are the bedding Begonias for semi-shady areas outside. Some have been bred for full sun.  They can be found as chartreuse or very dark leaves with blooms of white, light pink, or bright red. My favorites are the dark green leaves with red blooms. This summer they grew about 18 inches tall under a pine tree trimmed rather high.

Copyright 2011

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SHOULD I?

BY GEORGE EDGAR

Within the last two weeks I have been asked the following questions:

 1. Should I cut down my ornamental grass and asparagus?

          Answer: You can but I donít cut mine down until the end of February or the first couple of weeks in March. My ornamental grass hides some of my compost piles so I leave them up as long as possible. Both the ornamental grass and asparagus stalks catch leaves and snow and this helps to protect them and to keep the snow from blowing away. The small birds love to sit on the asparagus stalks and to hide in the grass. However, the old foliage on the Asparagus also overwinters insects and disease organisms so needs to be removed before warm weather.

2. How short should I mow my grass before it stops growing?

          Answer: The turf specialists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln recommends that homeowners set their mower at 3 inches to 3 1/2 inches in height and leave it there all season. If you mow too short in the late fall the grass crowns are more likely to dry out and winter kill if we have a harsh winter and if you leave the blades too long they will lay down and suffocate the grass.

3. Is it too late to plant Tulips, Crocus, and Daffodils?

          Answer: NO!!! These Spring blooming bulbs can be planted as long as you can dig a hole in your garden. Remember to plant them at the correct depth and protect them from squirrels that love to dig in the fresh dirt and eat the bulbs. Be sure and protect the new shoots as they come out of the ground from rabbits in the Spring as love to eat them. I have found that most animals do not like to dig and mess around evergreen tree boughs laid across the area, especially rabbits.

Copyright 2011