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Home > Begonian > Volume 72 (March/April 2005, pages 68 - 69)

Favorite Begonias
by Doug Pridgen

When Joyce chose to join the Miami Begonia Society, I became her supporting staff of one. We had no begonias, but had both been plant people for many years, growing various things.

I concluded that the best way to build a collection was through propagation. I thought that I could handle that task so I took on the job. Every time I saw something that caught my eye, I asked for a leaf or a cutting. Soon we had a large and ever expanding collection.

Fairly early in the game, I decided that I didn't really care about growing cane begonias. There was just not enough differentiation in foliage shapes and growth habits. Basically, other than leaf coloration, they all looked the same in my eye. I told Joyce this, and I didn't bother propagating canes. As a result, we had few, and still to this day have few. Likewise, I can recognize and name only a limited number of the cane begonias. (I have the same feelings about the Rex class, which we can't grow anyway.)

Conversely, I have always been attracted to the other classes of begonias because I see so much differentiation in leaf shapes and textures and so much difference in growth habit; especially in the shrub and rhizomatous classes. As a result, you will find these classes dominate our collection.

This same eye for the begonia (or more accurately, lack thereof) has carried over into my hybridization efforts. I have grown numbers of cane seedlings into very nice plants but they all eventually end up in the garbage bin. I simply can't find them to be any different in my eye than any other cane that already exists. The same in most cases is true for my hybridization efforts of other classes. Unless it is truly distinctive (which is rare), to the trash bin it goes. I have had some very distinctive looking prospects, but in final analysis have decided they were too similar to something that already exists so they are history.

B. 'Phoe's Cleo'
Here are three of Doug Pridgen's favorites for Florida. Top is B. 'Phoe's Cleo', a Tim Anderson hybrid. Below right is B.'Sisquoc' and left is B. 'Palm Garten', all grown by Joyce Pridgen. All photos by Doug Pridgen.
B. 'Palm Garten' B. 'Sisquoc'

We grow a fairly large number of species. But again, the ones we keep are more unusual/distinctive. If it has the typical green leaf/white bloom/one more begonia look, it doesn't stay around long.

Bottom line: I don't know that I have "A" favorite begonia. My favorites are all those very distinctive things that are usually the "harder to grow" items. Many of these begonias simply don't like the Florida climate and/or our growing conditions. I have tried dozens of times to grow some of them anyway, all to no longterm avail. I won't name anything a favorite which we can't grow, but there would be a number of begonias on the list if I did.

Species that do well for us that we have grown for years and which I would have to call "favorites" include: B. maculata var. wightii; sceptrum [syn.for B. aconitifolia]; aconitifolia; thick-Stemmed B. malabarica; rhizomatous B. coriacea, tayabensis (bronze), U-344, U-360, raja, glandulosa (dayii), heracleifolia, speculata [?]; distinctive B. herbacea, attenuata [syn. for B. lanceolata], nigratarum; semi-tuberous various dregei varieties; shrub B. U-002, U-168, U-402, egregia, juliana (U-049), peltata, valida; trailing B. thelmae, polygonoides
B. 'Bunchii' B. 'Richmondensis'
Here are other Doug Pridgen favorites, all grown by Joyce: top left. B. 'Bunchii', right B. 'Richmondensis', below B. 'Homosassa'. Photos by Doug Pridgen.
B. 'Homosassa'

I adopted the B. coriacea, tayabensis (bronze), U-334 and U-360 for the save our species effort. If anyone desires a start of one of these and will let me know, I will be happy to send a leaf (if I don't receive 2000 requests at the same time).

Some of the hybrids which we have continually grown for many years as our "standbys" are: Cane B. 'Lana', 'White Ice' (See cover photo); thick-Stemmed B. 'Boomer'; rhizomatous B. 'Palomar Prince', 'Wild Pony', 'Cowardly Lion', 'Black Coffee','Spanish Moss', 'Sisquoc', 'Phoe's Cleo', 'Mirage', 'Passing Storm', 'Bunchii'; distinctive B. 'Little Bro. Montgomery', 'Brown Jewel'; shrub B. 'Withlacoochee', 'Medora', 'Homosassa', 'Cubinfo', 'Victoria Woods', 'Concord', 'Richmondensis'; trailing B. 'Morocco', 'Moly Poly'. Of course, we have a much larger collection than the above, but I would call all of these my "favorites". And, I surely forgot many more!!!

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