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Home > Begonian > Volume 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.

entry to Jeannne Jones' home

Jeannne and Wally Jones

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 collected.

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 specifications.

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 red hairs.

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 begonias.

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 believed.

Jeanne Jones' shade house B. 'Jeanne Jones'

Above  is one side of her back shade house and her B. 'Jeanne Jones'


B. 'Looking Glass'
Jeanne's splendid B. 'Looking Glass' (Worley)

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