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Gardening with Gael - Why Iím banking on begonias


IMG 7717-852A few years ago, Box carved out two terraces near the entrance of the Block and planted lovely curved rows of grapes. I planted japonicas on the bank between them and roses to the East above the dam. These grapes have been difficult to manage.

One row was too close to the bank and one row too close to the roses. They were planted before we bought the ride on mower and the distance between them only allowed for a hand mower. Once you have a ride on, hand mowers are not viewed in quite the same way. That, plus the poor soil and the fate of those rows was sealed. Out they came leaving a sad bedraggled row of lonely japonicas.

The criteria for improving this garden  was based entirely on the ride on mower, The flat areas need to be left so that they can be mown but the japonicas needed company. My friend Marg had numerous ideas for planting along the base [viburnums, pseudopanax ‘Cyril Watson’ etc. I toyed with some more nikaus. 

“What about cistus?” I suggested

“Don’t they self combust ?” replied Marg

I got out my book on Japanese planting and there was the perfect foil for the japonicas. Bedding begonias. An old fashioned plant that Google says has ‘fallen from favour.’ Their lovely bright flowers and fleshy leaves complement the stark architectural lines of the japonicas, yet producing similar shaped flowers.

What about bedding begonias? I WhatsApped Marg. No reply. 

Did you get my message? No reply. 

“Do you not like bedding begonias and don’t know how to tell me?” I asked her when I saw her.

“I don’t like bedding begonias,” she said, “And I don’t know how to tell you.”

I will prove her wrong. I am covering the bank with bedding begonias in all shades of white, pink and red. Their foliage can differ too, green and bronze. So far I am half way along the bank and they are looking brilliant.

Begonia Semperflorens, also called wax or fibrous begonias are smll plants which form mounds no more that ten – fifteen cm high, covered in bright waxy flowers with yellow centres. They can be treated as annuals or perennials. I already had some planted in a dry spot under some cherry trees where they have coped really well. I’ve transplanted them all to the bank for some instant show. Now is the time to take cuttings. 
Take the shoots without blooms and approximately two nodes and place them in potting mix. I watched a Youtube clip which used the leaves. They trimmed the sides of the leaves off and planted the base. 

I think they will survive the bank because they are very drought tolerant. They survive the hot sun but prefer a little shade. 

I was reconsidering the nikaus when a fellow gardener Sue called by and said that Benji and Laura of ‘Forgotten Fruits’ were having an end of season sale. We should go and look.

Here I found the perfect plants to be planted at the base of the bank. I bought a couple of plums. Their branches will give the begonias some shade mid summer.  There is room along the bank for more fruit trees and suddenly the garden has come together. I am looking out for the apricots that produce in warmer climates. ‘Fitzroy’ and ‘Katy Cot’ seem the most recommended varieties.

I am so pleased that the terraces are still going to produce. No longer grapes but a variety of stone fruits instead.

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