entertainingFood & Drinkoutdoorsarah ryhanenweeders digest

weeder’s digest: collecting begonias

by Grace Bonney

Well, hello.

Nice to see you again…Shall we?

Lately, when I’m not thinking of you, I’m been thinking about winter… about how it snuck up on me – suddenly I’m unconsciously reaching for a butternut squash at the supermarket, or holing up with 2 pints of B&J, a bottle of wine and astrology paraphernalia. I also have time lately to look around and consider my houseplants. Specifically, my recent obsession with collecting begonias.

Surely a professional astrologer could pinpoint the precise planetary angles in my star chart – a synergy that results in an acute tendency to collect and hoard. Let’s consider my history:

1985, first snowy day: I tell my sister (then aged 3) that winter is fast approaching and we need to gather all the nuts and berries in the yard or else we’re sure to starve. She cries; I console her with a mud pie.

1988 – 1990: I collect every piece of Easter and Halloween candy in a shoebox in the bottom of my closet. I strategically ration the candy – by only consuming small nibbles – so that it lasts all year round. These are the hardest days yet.

1991: I begin meeting with a stamp-collecting group in the back of an aging Roy Rogers restaurant. I wow the other members with my strong showing of the 1952 Helsinki Commemorative Olympic Stamps.

1993: A TJ Max opens in my town, and I begin pillaging the home section; spending my babysitting earnings ($3/hour, can you believe it!) to amass an unruly collection of god-awful candlesticks.

1995: An unfortunate collection of Absolut ads.

Presently: Managing an wayward collection of half eaten pieces of cheese, containers of olives, and…to the point – BEGONIAS.

Begonias come in infinite varieties. They stand up incredibly well as city house plants (requiring relatively low light, rather infrequent waterings (a once-a-week soaking will suffice in a pot with good drainage), and they are undeniably gorgeous.

Propagating is easy – snip a large healthy leaf and place it in a sunny window in a cup of water. When significant roots show up (2-3 weeks) you can pot a new one.

As a floral designer with a penchant for simple adornment of a few key flowers – the leaves are indispensable. I like to clip stems from my plants and mix them into arrangements. Given as a gift to someone armed with this information, such a bouquet can foster a new begonia grower. Now go forth and propagate!!

Great sites for begonias:

CLICK HERE for the rest of Sarah’s post and more images of Begonia varieties after the jump!

{A rhizomatous begonia}

{a spiral rex begonia}

{Tiger Begonia}

{Various “painted leaf” begonias}

{a stem of lisianthus with a couple of “color vision” begonia leaves}

{“A cowardly lion” begonia}

{Leaves of a “snowmen spiral rex” mixed here with eucalyptus, spirea, eucalyptus pods and juniper}

{a petite arrangement of pepperberry, hydrangea, raspberries, ranunculus and an “angel wing” begonia}

{close-up of of the “snowmen” rex begonia}

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  • Love the article, the way she talks about her past and present collections. The best part is the tip about begonias! I’m just going to start my own collection very soon! Thanks,

  • I have had the worst luck with begonias…I love them and they die. Is there a particular amount of sunlight they need….so sad to lose them one after another

  • absolut ads? oy. i had a great collection of posters. from prince and shaun cassidy. very eclectic. the candlesticks would have fit right in.

  • nice- that gave me a sigh of relief. the rain has been making me want to give up, but now i am back on track. thanks bunches.

  • I had no idea that the plants I had been admiring through my neighbor’s window were begonias! Awesome. Also, this post just made me realize I have a tiny pinecone collection.

  • ha! That was my favorite game back in 1985, too! I’m from Florida though, so I was always telling my brother that a hurricane was coming and we needed to stockpile pecans and camellia blossoms.
    Also, I had those same Absolut ads.. hoooo, boy, it’s rough remembering the 90’s!

  • Thanks for the Shout-out for Peace Tree!! We’re over 175 heirloom varieties (not rex, though, because they get mildew). Just wait until you see the new stuff coming to the website—pictures of ALL of them, and cultural info. Also check out Brad’s Begonia World website.

  • Why do I always overlook begonias? So often I choose finicky, suicidal tropical jobbies that just end up disappointing me- I think it’s time to try begonias.

    Sarah, it’s good to have you back. My work weeks have really been dragging without your column!

  • I think my mom still has my pink floppy binder full of carefully catalogued absolut ads. It was so awesome, I swear. At one time or another, I also collected different-sized dice, micro machines, cute-shaped erasers, and small ceramic animals. I am working on the plant collection now!

  • I can’t tell you how much time and money was spent in middle school with my best friend scouring magazines for Absolut ads. And I absolutely love rex begonias, but they don’t love me. I keep trying, they keep dying.

  • And don’t forget lovely Logees.com! Their specialty is begonias, and they’ve been in business and owned and operated by the same family for over 100 years! LOVE them! Worth a trip, for sure, if you’re in Connecticut. Wear a bib, you’ll be drooling. Thanks for the great post.

  • hey sarah. did I ever tell you I filled 3 of my bedroom walls, top-to-bottom, with philadelphia eagles cards as a kid? maybe i should have kept that to myself…