> Volume 66 (September/October 1999, pages 165 - 169)
Hybridising Down Under
by Ross Bolwell
It has been relatively difficult to obtain the latest
overseas hybrids in Australia. This is because of our tough and costly
quarantine procedures. We cannot import plants with soil or peat on the
roots and all of our imports are subjected to methyl bromide treatment.
This also includes cutting material such as leaves and stems. If the
plants survive this, they are then kept in quarantine glasshouses for 3
months with inspections on entry and exit for disease or pest problems.
This "service" is charged for at "user pays" rates. Plants eventually
introduced this way can cost the importer hundreds of dollars. The only
other option is to bring them in as tissue cultures which is allowed after
an initial inspection. Because such new hybrids are rarely in tissue
culture few have entered Australia in this way.
This has been a major factor in the growth of
hybridising here. We see and hear about wonderful new cultivars
particularly in the USA and Japan and seek to emulate that in Australia.
There have been many beautiful new Australian hybrids over the years with
many wonderful hybridists producing them. This article will concentrate on
four Aussie hybridists of more recent times. Each was asked a series of
questions and their answers form the basis of this article. Lyla
Kilpatrick has been hybridising for about 15 years and is based in Western
Australia. Lyla originally began hybridising because there were so very
few varieties in the west. John Clare has a keen interest in begonias and
began hybridising about 10 years ago after ceasing full time work. John
lives in Queensland. Philip Wright practices his hybridising techniques in
Victoria. Philip was persuaded to try raising new varieties from seed and
has been growing begonias since the early 1970's. Ross Bolwell has a
wholesale nursery in New South Wales (NSW) and has been growing begonias
for 30 years. Slowly the wholesale side of this business has made way to
concentration on retailing begonias via mail order.
Lyla now produces new varieties for the joy it gives
her and the chance that it might just produce a worthwhile new plant. She
does not look for any particular characteristics, just different and very
beautiful plants. This is clear from the magnificent plants we now have
because of her efforts. She has concentrated mainly on rhizomatous and
cane-like varieties. Lyla's favorite begonia parent plants are B. 'Lenore
Olivier' and B. 'Baby Dress'. She cites the reasons for using these plants
because they "bloom over a longer period than many begonias and are so
available. They are also very 'willing' and usually produce attractive,
strong hybrids." Lyla had some difficulty when asked what her favourite
begonia hybrid was, finally deciding that B. 'John Tonkin' must be near
the top. "It has large dark glossy leaves with huge umbels of pearly pink
blossom. It is a strong grower producing many basal shoots, grows to
medium height so doesn't require as much staking as some and is fairly
resistant to mildew." Lyla's most recent interest is in the Hiemalis group
Lyla's top ten hybrids: B. 'John Tonkin' (B.
'Lenore Olivier' x B. radicans); B. 'Kimbrook' (B.
heracleifolia x B. 'Locheil'); B. 'Alice Faye' (B. 'Lenore
Olivier' x B. hydrocotylifolia); B. 'Gecko' (B. 'Baby Dress'
x B. 'Kimbrook'); B. 'Sunrise' (B. 'Gecko' x B. 'Baby Dress');
B. 'Choclit' (B. 'Whirlwind' x B. 'Baby Dress'); B. 'Bright
Eyes' (B. 'Red Doll' x B 'Libby Lee'); B. 'Jester' (B. 'Orange
Pinafore' x B. dregei); B. 'Whispers' (B. 'Baby Dress' x B.
'Silver Jewell'); B. 'Donna' (B. 'Lenore Olivier' x B. maculata
Lyla Kipatrick's B. 'Alice Faye' is one
Aussie hybrid that has been glimpsed at ABS sales in the US. Photo is by
John has over 100 named hybrids in circulation and has
mainly worked with rhizomatous begonias. He has produced a few thick stem
types and more recently has turned his attention to cane varieties. John
looks for good leaf colour, shape and a compact habit. He also wants
plants that are free flowering which provides more opportunities for
hybridising. Vigorous growth is another requirement John seeks in his
breeding parents. He finds it "interesting to watch plants you have picked
out change colour and leaf shape with every new leaf." John cited several
parents he uses most, but did explain that he changes parents every year
or so to avoid too many look alikes. Some of these parents are B. 'Morning
Mist', B. 'Bedford Delight', B. 'Sisquoc', B. 'Star Gazer', B. 'Tiapan',
B. 'Dragon Wing', B. 'Griselda', B. lindleyana and B.
John didn't nominate his favourite hybrid, but his top
ten are: B. 'Crystal Brook' (B. 'Woodgate Delight' X. B. 'Befford
Delight'); B. 'Caralan's Pride' (B. Morning Mist' x B.
lindleyana; B. 'Burgundy Dream' (B. 'San Bernardino' x. B.
Unnamed Yorke Hybrid); B. 'White Wash' (B. 'Morning Mist' x. B.
wollnyi); B. 'New Party Girl' (B. 'Star Gazer' x B.
manicata var. aureo-maculata); B. 'Daintree Delight' (B.
'Woodgate Delight' x B. 'Bedford Delight'); B. 'Paringa' (B.
glandulosa x B. 'Bedford Delight'); B. 'Annie Eggert' (B.
popenoei x B. 'Tiapan'); B. 'Little Iodine' (B.
glandulosa x B. 'Baloo'); B. 'Lota Rose' (B. 'Dragon Wing' x
|John Clare, right, has chiefly specialised
in rhizomatous begonias bringing to his hybrids colour, vigorous growth,
and compact habit. Above, B. 'White Wash'; Plant Photos by John Clare.
| B. 'Tu-Tu', 'Crystal
Brook', and 'Purple Magic'. Plant Photos by John Clare
Philip is a foundation member of the Victorian Begonia
Society and has a keen interest in hybridising tuberous begonias. This
stemmed from his first attempt at growing these beauties from seed. Philip
has stuck to a long term plan which was "to increase the range of yellow
hybrids, salmon reds, and introduce more general vigour, health, stronger
stems and flowers to hybrids that would cope with the higher temperatures
we experience in the summer." This of course required a good deal of
research into the breeding background of the parent varieties. More
recently Philip has been working to introduce more perfumed types by
crossing seedlings obtained from Howard Seibold in the USA with other
named clones in his collection. Philip's work with yellows continues.
Philip says hybridising "can cause some heartache, but more often than not
you obtain rewards if you select your parents carefully, and also your
seedlings ... patience is a necessity." Some of Philip's hybrids are:
B. 'Carolyn Dawn' (Flushed yellow apricot, an unusual colour.);
B. 'Penelope' (Soft primrose yellow with many petals, pendula.);
B. 'Beulah Powell' (A rich yellow.); B. 'John Henderson'
(Yellow hybrid with multi wavy petals.); B. '219' (Rose formed soft
pink); B. 'Jim Curtis' (Strong upright salmon red.); B. 'Bronwen
Huxtable' (Very strong, crimson red); B. '401' (Wavy salmon
red.); B. '415' (Large salmon red.); B. 'Maplewood'
(Cyclamen pink with white reverse picotee.)
The color in Philip Wright's B. 'Carolyn Dawn; above
B. 'John Henderson', above right, and B. '219' below
evidence his work
with pastel colors and greater heat resistance in tuberous begonias.
Ross has been hybridising begonias since 1981. He
specialises in rexes and canes, but has produced some rhizomatous, shrub
and trailing hybrids. Driven by his commercial need for new varieties he
has introduced hundreds of rex cultivars. Cane begonias are his primary
interest. Ross wants to produce disease resistant, compact growing, free
branching, free flowering canes that have large flowers and fragrance. A
good strong growing yellow flowering cane is one particular aim. He also
likes to produce primary hybrids from different species and one of these
vigorous plants was named after him by members of the NSW Begonia Society.
B. 'Ross Bolwell' is a hybrid from B. carolineifolia B.
thiemei. Ross has many favourite hybrids, but his choice for
overall favourite is B. 'Annan Belle' an unusual cross with flowers in a
beautiful shade of burnt orange-apricot. Unfortunately this plant appears
to be sterile.
Ross's top ten hybrids are: B. 'Annan Belle'
(B. micranthera var. venturii x. B. carrieae); B.
'Flamingo Queen' (B. U078 x B. 'Lenore Olivier'); B. 'White
Cascade' (B. U078 x B. 'Lenore Olivier'); B.'Vamigo'
(B.'Red Amigo' seedling.); B. 'Pink Kiss' (B. 'Orpha C. Fox' x. B.
'Lenore Olivier'); B. 'Red Dragon' (B. kenworthyae x. B.
carrieae); B. 'Starry Night' (B. U078 x. B. 'Lenore
Olivier'); B. 'Tribute' (B. 'Orpha C. Fox' x B. Lenore Olivier');
B. 'Rosie' (B. 'Christine B' x. B. 'Lenore Olivier'); B. 'Think
Pink' (B. 'Pink Surprise' x B. carrieae).
Many in the U.S. know Ross Bolwell for his canes,
particularly B. 'Flamingo Queen', but the unique B. 'Think Pink' is also