69 (May/June 2002, pages 89 - 91)
A Visit with Jeanne Jones in Palos Verdes, California
by Freda Holley
To visit Jeanne Jones, you drive through Palos Verdes,
one of the most picturesque areas of Los Angeles. As are many of the homes
here, Jeanne's house at 1415 Via Margarita is perched on a hillside such
that the driveway curves down and around into her garage. From the moment
you turn into that drive, you are confronted with a feast of lovely
begonias. They frame the garage, the front windows, and most of all the
front entrance. There to the right was an outsize B. 'Dragon
Wings'. To the left was the largest, lushest B. 'Looking Glass'
that I have ever seen. Also near the entrance was, of course, B.
'Jeanne Jones' herself, the cane named for her by Brad Thompson.
|Right, Jeanne and Wally Jones in
a photo by Janet Brown and below in Jeanne's photo is her home's
entrance fronted by B'. 'Dragon Wings' and others.
These are not your every day begonias, but big,
beautiful specimen plants. She is particularly fond of the hybrids of
Irene Nuss and Brad Thompson and these were all in glorious
bloom the early September day when I first saw them. However, liberally
mixed in among these are species, some of them tuberous. Here was the
largest B. sanguinea I have ever seen and it was loaded with bloom.
A seed lover, such as I, had indeed arrived in begonia heaven.
All this area is flooded in morning light that induces
bloom. Although the light seemed ideal on the days I was there, Jeanne's
husband Wally had installed an automatic awning that extends and protects
the begonias along the front when the sun gets too hot.
On the right of the front yard stood a great evergreen
pear tree which served as a natural hanging basket structure and the limbs
were full both with begonias and all the other types of plants Jeanne
grows.. She doesn't limit her interests!
Jeanne's house is as spectacular as her front yard
because the entire main floor opens onto a balcony which oversees the
backyard ‑ remember this is a house on a hillside. The floor below opens
on a patio which in turn opens on one side into a dream of a shade house.
The remainder of the yard is taken up with huge citrus trees ‑Jeanne never
lacks for fresh juice ‑ and all the other ornamentals she has
But the begonias here were still the stars. At first
glance, I thought, "What a climate! Things just grow themselves here." But
later, I saw Jeanne sitting on the drive in front, grooming plants
carefully one by one. As usual where there is lovely plant, there is a
dedicated grower at work. Indeed, Jeanne has two work areas, a potting
bench and work area in the front in her garage and on the patio by the
shade house. She uses a special potting soil mixed to her
A number of plants in her shade house were new to me
and one of the most striking to me was a big, gorgeous B. 'Magic
Carpet.' This looks like B. hispida var. cucullifera
with its leaf appendages, but these and the leaf they occupy was an
olive, coppery color and of a velvety texture. It is a Ruth Pease
hybrid and I'm hoping soon she will share its history. Jeanne kindly
gave me a cutting and to my surprise it rooted quickly and well ‑ I
usually don't have a lot of luck propagating the velvety shrubs.
Of a similar texture was a huge B. 'John
Tapia'. This is a Rudy Ziesenhenne hybrid and on a later visit to
Rudy's greenhouse, Jeanne introduced me to John Tapia himself. The
large bloom clusters on this plant are a major attraction. Each bloom is a
heart‑shaped pink silver dollar before it unfolds with striking pink to
There was a B. 0029 which had almost mature
seed. I've tried for years to get seed on this one and never succeeded.
Did you save those seed, Jeanne? I grew mine from seed given me by Joy
Porter years ago and it is rarely seen today, a comment that can be
made about a number of the plants Jeanne grows.
Another group of plants that I was struck with were
what I call "the gray flock." These are the cane‑like begonias with a
slate green color with veins outlined in varying degrees of a grey‑white.
Chief among these is B. angularis. Jeanne had this one, B.
angulata, and B. pulchella, sometimes called by its synonym
B. similis. All of these grew well for me in the Ozarks, but
I could never get any except the last one to bloom and set seed. Here,
they all bloomed in profusion. The plants were tall and full as well. Here
in Oklahoma it is too hot in the summer for this entire group of cane‑like
Another group of begonias that I cannot grow in
Oklahoma and that I have rarely seen at all were tuberous species. Of
course, here Jeanne grew these as well. You may remember, Thelma
O'Reilly's story and photos about the long lost B. opuliflora
that appeared a few years ago in the Begonian. I saw a small
plant of this at Rudy Ziesenhenne's in 1999, but here at Jeanne's was
again a specimen plant that matched up to Thelma's enthusiasm for it. It
was both large and well‑shaped. She also had an outstanding example of
B. boliviensis the size of whose tuber will simply not be
Above is one side of her back shade
house and her B. 'Jeanne Jones'
|Jeanne's splendid B.
'Looking Glass' (Worley)