Begonias

There’s something special about begonias, a translucency which gives the flowers an extraordinary, because lucent, depth of colour. I have liked them for a long time, and do a pretty fair job of keeping them year by year — if, that is, the slugs don’t get them first. But although I was bringing on several from last year, if not the year before, I bought some more in the cold and drizzly days of February, when the mere contemplation of the photographs on the packages gave a certain boost to the spirits. Like almost everything else they have been inordinately slow to flower, but finally got around to it in the last week or so. The February begonias have exceeded all expectations — they are huge and magnificent and a very splendid shade of dark, glowing pink vaguely suggestive of sea anemones. But their numbers have been further augmented today, because we found a very modest little nursery on the way to the farm shop — up a track in the middle of nowhere, a farmer’s wife is growing bedding plants in polytunnels as a minor supplement to the farm’s more serious agricultural activity. Entering the polytunnel on a summer day is to risk retinal damage: she is catering to that curious aspect of demotic Scots taste, which is to put a foot-wide border of six-inch-high non-stop flowerers in pulsatingly vivid shades around their wee grey-pebbledashed homes. The effect is neither dignified nor attractive, but it is pursued with earnest perseverance all over the North. Tagetes (African marigold) are a significant aspect of this, so are mesembryanthemum (Livingstone daisies), ‘non-stop’ begonias, lobelia and alyssum and a whole range of other little annuals which flower so hard you can’t see the leaves. Colour seems irrelevant as long as it’s bright enough. The farm-wifie is the local supplier. She was saying rather sadly that three of her best customers died over the winter — it’s a style which, at least applied domestically, hasn’t actually been in fashion for forty years, so most of her customer base is almost certainly elderly. But she had some fantastic begonias under a bench, which had the most beautiful dark bronze leaves, a wonderful background to the brilliant reds and pinks of the actual flowers. I don’t know why she was growing them, since they had nothing to do with the ‘Summer Colour’ world in the main polytunnel — crucially, they do not flower all the time — but they are fantastic, and what is more, she was charging 80p apiece for them. It seemed downright foolish not to buy quite a few. The Professor has plugged the gaps in his pinks-bed, bought parsley, rainbow chard, red cos lettuce and runner beans to fill the space vacated by the just-lifted potatoes, and we got away with four whole trays of this and that for a measly fourteen quid.

One Response to “Begonias”

  1. Jill Says:

    Gardening practices were thrown into a tizzy earlier this summer here in the Far North when a new gardening centre opened called Plantasjon. Trays of inexpensive bedding plants in all sorts of lurid colours were on offer and the locals came in hordes to swoop upon the bounty. Should anyone have questioned the source, they would have been told that the plants all came up here in containers from gasp…Denmark.
    It was no surprise that this garden stock withered upon contact with Arctic garden conditions. The local women who sell beautiful naturalized bedding plants out of their vans in the Torget are now doing a land office business even though summer is almost over here. And Plantasjon has gone out of business.

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