Magsy Lombard and Finn Conrad are two creative creators of cultivars. Here they talk about why and how they create new begonias. Each of the begonias here, is a cultivar created, grown, and photographed by them. Enjoy getting to know Magsy, Finn, and their plants!
Tell us how you became interested in begonias
About a year before Finn and I met on Instagram, we each stumbled upon Begonia pavonina and were stunned. Iridescence is a marvel of understory plant life that still baffles science. The genus Begonia is an excellent example on variations on a theme. As collectors, it wasn’t hard to get hooked on the variations of texture, color, and habit.
Finn found begonias through friends in the tropical frog and insect hobby, while I was introduced to begonias by my dear mentors Bob and Dee Stewart who I met in the Gesneriad Society. Finn and I found each other over Instagram where we share photos of our plant hobbies. We are a Begonia love story through and through. Finn left Germany about a year ago to join me in the US. Now we are married and run a little online terrarium plant shop called Plantae Ex Situ meaning along the lines of “plants away from their natural location” in honor of ex situ conservation which we hope to contribute to. We can be found on Etsy under the name PlantaeExSitu and on Instagram via the handles @aspiringbotanist, @46_69_6e_6e, and @plantae.exsitu.
Why are you interested in creating cultivars?
Honestly, I’ve always preferred growing plants that evolved their traits independent of most human meddling. However, when Finn began smashing pollen around and I saw the results, I gave in. It’s magical to scramble the genes of two species and see the traits combined–the iridescence of Begonia sp. Temuyuk Blue on the leaves Begonia dracopelta, the bullae of Begonia dracopelta on the leaves of Begonia sp. Sulawesi Black. You’ll notice that Begonia dracopelta is one of our favorite hybridizing parents. We’ve found it to reliably accept pollen and we love the leaf texture it passes to its offspring.
What characteristics and qualities do you aim for, when creating a cultivar?
We are haphazard hybridizers, but we are picky collectors. Most of our begonias are iridescent or have remarkable leaf texture and most of our collection is from section Petermannia which makes hybridizing easier. If two plants are in flower, Finn trades pollen about and if it takes, and the seeds germinate, we get to play the parentage guessing game! Personally, my favorite hybrids are those that look like they could be from the wild rather than an overly showy scramble of genetics.
One of our favorite hybrids is Begonia dracopelta × sp. Sarawak (large lichenora). It has bumpy foliage with green venation and excellent iridescence. We’re most proud of our registered cultivar Begonia ‘Schwarze Perle’ meaning black pearl. We’ve recently grown out our own version of Begonia metallicolor × dracopelta that seems to show significantly different traits from Chad Wunderlich’s Begonia ‘Metallic Dragon’ to warrant registration. One of our few non-dracopelta hybrids is Begonia U679 × Begonia cf. erythrogyna. It’s one of our favorites, but we haven’t got around to registering it.