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can't remember how I came to start growing begonias, it was 40
years ago and I did not even have a greenhouse, only a shed at the bottom of the
I bought my first tubers from Blackmore and Langdon in 1968, half a
dozen of their AX varieties, of these two were quite good and I grew them for
several years along with an ever increasing number of named varieties. Among the
very early ones were Gold Plate, Rhapsody and Ken Macdonald.
The shed was
converted to a lean-to greenhouse 18' x 10' (later rebuilt to 18' x 12'
and an 8' x 6' Eden added in front). In 1970 I joined the National
Begonia Society at the Royal Horticultural Society Summer Show in the RHS Halls Westminster
to celebrate ordered five more tubers from B & L. The following year I entered my first begonia in a
Show, Rhapsody won first prize at Havant. Flushed with success two more plants,
Gold Plate and Guardsman, were entered that same year in The Southsea Show - two
In 1972 an article
appeared in the Society bulletin stating that the committee
would like to extend their activities to new areas. Show schedules were
requested together with offers of local assistance. I forwarded a Southsea Show
schedule and agreed to help. Back came the names of the only three other local
members (all of them now unfortunately dead) and an invitation to assist the
Society stage a display at the 1973 Show. Initially the four of us thought we
would be merely assisting and growing some of the plants, but as the Show date
neared it was apparent that it would be down to us. And so the seeds were sown
for what was to become a big part in my, and several others, lives in the years
In 1976 the Society granted us area recognition and I became the first South
Coast Representative. As described in the
South Coast Area page we quickly developed.
The years went by, my begonias seemed
to get bigger and bigger, so much so that they were
too large to get through the
house (we live in a terrace). This meant lifting 3' diameter plants in
12½" pots over the garden wall.
To make things more difficult for myself I also exhibited these at
the London Show which followed almost immediately after our own Show at
Southsea. The first two weeks in August became quite a marathon.
Activities started on Tuesday evening when we began transporting the
equipment down to Southsea. Wednesday and Thursday were taken up
with ferrying the plants to the showground, setting out tables etc,
building the stand and staging our display. Friday, Saturday and
Sunday were Show days. At the end of the last day everything that
took two days to assemble had to be demolished and transported away in
about three hours. As Show Secretary it was my responsibility to
ensure that everything was in order, "okay on the day" and of course to
make all the preliminary arrangements. (These started back in
Having survived Southsea my attention now turned to The
London Show. The next day, Monday, I spent the morning preparing the
pots for the sixty mile journey to London. After a reviving snooze
the hire van was collected and loaded ready for a late afternoon departure
(to arrive in the capitol after the rush hour).
Transporting plants sixty miles up to London was a far more difficult task
than the five or so to Southsea, especially plants bearing up to sixty
blooms. Each flower had to be supported and wrapped in cotton wool.
We used to get to Westminster at about 8pm to miss the rush hour, but by this time it was
getting dark and the Hall was very poorly lit - all the cotton wool had to
be removed and the plants staged in half light. We eventually
arrived home about midnight only to leave again early Tuesday morning in
order to be at the Show when it opened. It was all very exhausting
but at the same time extremely worthwhile as the two shows were quite
different. Southsea tented with the majority of the attendance
holidaymakers, London in two large halls and packed with many
Following a discussion
with the popular TV gardening presenter Peter Seabrook I was approached to
do a regular monthly article in the Hobby Plants section of the Amateur
Gardening magazine, this started in December 1987 and carried on until
February 1990. After the first year these articles became somewhat
difficult to compose as it meant covering the same stages of the season in
After the 1988 Show at
Southsea I decided to step down as South Coast Rep. and Show Secretary.
In retirement I now class myself as a foot soldier - a title which is met
with much derision amongst fellow members. I still very much enjoy
the hobby and have become as much interested in growing for cut bloom
exhibiting as for pots, and I have given up altogether growing very large
My most recent activity for the Society was in creating and
maintaining this website, which supersedes my first forage into the
internet, the now withdrawn Begonia South Coast from which
most of this page has been taken.
2005 saw a new challenge for us in the South Coast Area.
After 32 years we left the Southsea Show to hold our own
Show at Portchester,
in the Parish Hall where we hold our meetings. The Show has proved to be a
success and the Southsea Show has now folded.
2009 however saw a further decline in our fortunes as we were
now reduced to a one day Show and for the first time since 1973 no stand.
The problem was declining local membership. This was to be our last
Show, advancing years and no new blood into our group spelt the end
after 37 years, in common with other specialist horticultural groups in
the area we had almost, but not quite, come to the end of the road.
2010 and a new venture, albeit on a very small scale compared to
our previous activities. We were kindly offered an area at the Solent
Fuchsia Club Show and staged 5 Classes.
2011 I have been honoured to receive the Society's Gold Medal.
Editor's Diary 2006
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