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Growers in the Spotlight - North & South of the Border

Michael Richardson

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BOB ROBERTSON  Scottish Begonia Society Committee Member

Visited Sunday  5th. May 2017

 

 Bob has been growing begonias for approx. 6 years and is a member of the Scottish Begonia Society Committee, and is one of the driving forces that ensure the SBS has a stand at Gardening Scotland at the start of June with the aim to “sell” the Society and recruit new members.
Bob's set up was different from what I usually see on the road, and is one of the reasons why we like to visit different growers “environment’s” as not everyone has the same kind of set up.
His “growing environment” ran the length of his back garden and started as per normal with an 8ftx6ft greenhouse that he uses as a propagating greenhouse.

8ftx6ft Propagating greenhouse -

Down both sides of this greenhouse as you can see by the pictures to the left and right are x2 homemade hotbox units and both were filled half full off sand with a heating cable being sandwiched within and controlled with a Parasone Thermostat Control.

 

Now something Bob did do different when he made his hotbox units instead of fitting a “solid” sheet to separate the compost from the sand and heat cables he put a layer of mesh as you can see from the picture to the left, as he likes the moisture to flow both ways.

Now additional to this he has an “underslung” hotbox as you can see on the picture to the right.

 Bob uses Mother Earth multi-purpose compost to fill his hotboxes then brings them up to temperature before putting his tubers in.
As you can see by the picture on the left he starts his cuttings in Mother Earth multi-purpose compost and perlite then he plunges the pot into the hotbox, his rex cuttings are put in and again he plunges his pots into the compost.
Now if you also look carefully he has also takes his rex cuttings and roots them in perlite.

Now for something different –
When Bob pots up he uses his own Johns Innes No2, however his “loam” is from an allotment society in East Kilbride where they “compost” compost for up to 3 years before it is riddled and used. He did say that certain “greens” are not composted but items like cabbage and begonia leafs are. He then mixes it with peat and uses Vitax Q4 for his base fertilizer.

His main growing “building” -

As per the picture to the left you can see the building he has built that stretches across to the other side of the garden, and it is separated up into x3 rooms.

 

The first room
As you can see by the pictures to the left and right this room is like a growing-on room and has flat slatted single level bench that go around the 3 sides of this room. He has a number of other types of plants like streptocarpus, cyclamen, maiden hair ferns and sweet peas. As well as rex’s, flamboyants and double tuberous begonias in, that are all been grown on.
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The second room

This is a room that he flowers his plants in.
As you can see by the picture on the left running down the right hand side of this room is a 3 tier stepped staged system with the first level being a hot box unit if required – and there you can see Mr Weatherby inspecting Bobs plants and “checking” what varieties he has. 

The 3 tiered staging system carries on across the back of this room and is again filled with developing plants. Now as you can see by the picture J to the right he has a shelf that runs along the top half of the wall and here were a lovely collection of pelargoniums in flower.

Now coming back down the left hand side of the room Bob has tried to do something that I have heard mentioned but not heard of anyone trying it, and that is -
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Does a begonia need to go to sleep at the end of the year or is it the grower that needs a rest….
So to try and get flowers for Gardening Scotland Flower Show at Ingleston for June 1st Bob gave this a try. He took some plants straight through winter and tried to get an early flower on them, it did not quite go to plan but he may get a few flowers to the show. He also said he will not be trying it again.
I have put this picture on the left in to show you that his plants wanted to go down and into a stage of dormancy at the end of the year.

 

The third room
This is his rex house as you can see by the following pictures. On the left the picture L showing the right hand side of this room where he has again a 3 tier staging system with both rex’s and streptocarpus on. Across the back of this room he has a 4 tier staging system that were full of rex’s and streptocarpus.
The picture to the right shows you his rex’s coming back down his right hand side, under his 3 tier staging he has a hotbox containing rex cutting’s.


The picture to the left shows the other half of the right hand side again with 3 tiers of rex’s and a hotbox full of rex cutting’s.

 


I will say that at this point we left Terry Tasker talking to Bob as they got very engrossed talking about his Rex’s as you can see by my final picture  – I will say Terry was getting very nostalgic and misty eyed, so I can see him at some point going back to growing these again at some degree.

 

Additional -
Since this visit I have spoken with Bob and he said by the time we were heading home back down the M74 after the our visit and SBS meeting he was already putting more shade up in his greenhouse on the advice of Terry Tasker. 

I would like to thank Bob Robertson for allowing me to write this article.
 

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