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The Editor's Page
Brian Simmons


Tahiti

   I 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 garden.
   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. 


Masquerade

   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 (London) and 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 more firsts!

   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 to come. 

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 12" 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 January). 
   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 knowledgeable horticulturists.  

   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 different words.

   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 multi-stem plants.

   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.

Brian Simmons

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