I will start this article by
apologizing for it being late, but I got waylaid with work and by my
Sunday 23rd June
This trip to Ian Donaldson’s and Phil
Champion’s has now become one of our annual pilgrimages north of the
border that we do every June – rumour has it that we only do it for the
full cooked breakfast by Linda Donaldson and afternoon tea by Judy
Champion – there could be a grain of truth to this as you will hear about
later in this article.
Ian & Lynda Donaldson’s
We arrived for about 10am on what we
thought was Ian Donaldson’s road but straight away we sensed something
was amiss, so Dodgy Dave jumped out of the car and started walking
around the houses looking for Ian's house however we realized pretty
quickly it was the next street along. It did not take a genius long to
realize that it would not be long before a home owner woke up only to
find some dodgy looking character lurking on their driveway and call the
boys in blue…. So we got Dave back in the car and made a quick escape
from that street and on to the next one where we found Phil Champion's
blue van parked outside.
After a fantastic full cooked
breakfast by Lynda Donaldson and a lot of friendly banter we went out to
look at these plants that we have seen a lot about already since Ian is
documenting his growing year via a diary on the National Begonia
Now I am not going to go into Ian’s
growing techniques as he is very kindly doing this year’s
Cultural Diary on our Society's website.
Not only that but he has also said if anyone had any questions then he
would only be too happy to answer then through the National Begonia
Society Facebook page – Myself and Phil Champion both agreed that we
were amazed that no one has really took him up on this offer.
Take for example where he wrote that he potted up 2x1litre pots into a
7.5 litre pot – that’s 5.5 litres of fresh compost, I thought someone
would have queried that especially when you are “taught” that you are
only supposed to pot into a pot that has roughly a finger width gap all
the way round.
The controversy that’s been created with Ian trying to grow different
varieties has amazed me – All through my working life the one word that
always scares people is change.
He is only trying to do something a little different – I must admit two
different plants in one pot could look a little offset – now for example
dark colour plants at the back like Tigger and a Monica Bryce in the
front, how can that not be visual stimulating to not only a grower but a
member of the general public. It has to be better than just a single
colour, hasn’t it – well that’s my “two penny worth” on this highly
controversial issue – the picture A to the left shows developing
plant of this.
Ian took a bud off one of his pot plants to show us that his pot plant
buds were allowed to develop into cut bloom size flower buds – so
instead of for example a normal pot plant carrying 20+ small flowers Ian
wants less flowers but a plant full of 9inch cut bloom size flowers from
the top to the bottom off the plant.
Below in the picture to the left you can see the 3 of us looking
at the bud he took off, in the picture below right I would like to show
you who kept the flower bud and the rumor from Southport is he tried to
root it when he got home but failed.
Now below are some epic looking pot
plants running from left to right:
A view of his main greenhouse showing his Pot Plants and some cut bloom
A picture showing a pot plant of Symestar and a pot plant of a seedling.
Where do I start with plants he is
growing as cut blooms – they must be some of the best looking cut bloom
plants I have seen grown for a long time.
Please see the pictures below running
from left to right of some of his plants being grown for cut blooms:
A selection of his cut blooms.
A plant Powder Puff.
At last - see below a picture of Ian’s
new seedling - Emma Louise – well in bud stage anyway but you can get a
good idea how rich it will look colour wise.
In the picture L to the left
you can see some drums holding a liquid, when you looked in them the
liquid had what looked like a faint blue hue to it. We asked in what he
was feeding them and he replied nothing and that it was plain water, so
after a bit of lively debate we said alright if its water dip your
finger in and taste it so he did. So I tasted as well and got Terry
Tasker to try it as well, and I am afraid to say no secret ingredients
just plain water – but we did have a good laugh whilst doing it.
Now the picture below shows
two dodgy characters (Terry to the left and Dave’s camera on the right)
trying to catch Ian with his secret ingredient but failed miserably so
we just putting it down to Ian’s “cultural proficiency” – that’s a term
Ian coined and used the other year during one of his Food for Thought
talks / lectures.
The pictures below running from left to right show:
Ian’s propagating greenhouse.
Full inside view.
Specimen seedlings to left.
Specimen seedlings to the right.
To end the first part of this
article - Another point of contention
Now some growers say that you should
not grow on tiered staging but a single level close to the ground, well
when you look at Ian Donaldson’s plants whether it’s his Pot Plants &
Single Stem cut bloom plants then I think that who could argue that
point that it does not matter as long as there is sufficient height to
the greenhouse and a gap between the plants and the side of the
Then it was a good twenty minute drive
to Phil Champions, once again Phil had set off first that left
us following Ian “the flying Scot” Donaldson – for most of the trip I
thought his brake lights were not working until we went through a small
village with a 30 mile and speed limit and if by magic they worked,
however once we got through the village he was gone again.
Phil & Judy Champions
Now if you have seen Phil Champion's
posts on the National Begonia Society Facebook he has been brutally
honest with how the cold has affected his leafs on top, however
underneath they looked normal and as Phil said he is showing the flower
and not the leaf:
Plants mostly earmarked for Dundee.
Plants mostly earmarked for Shrewsbury Flower show.
Some pot plants being allowed to flower.
Phil and Dave inspecting the plants closely.
Whilst Phil and Dave were inspecting
the finer points of the plants – Ian Donaldson, Robert Bryce and Terry
Tasker were outside relaxing in the sun as you can see in the picture
Phil already had some good looking
hanging baskets in flower :
Golden Showers and Winter Moon which was just coming into flower.
Now one flower that did stand out on
just colour alone was a plant of Midas which was just beginning to open
– and what a vivid yellow it was. I know it’s an old variety but still
has to be one of the best yellows colour wise still being grown. I
thought I had taken a photo of it but all I could find was a group
picture I had taken so I will apologise for the quality of the picture
on the left below but I have tried to blow it up a bit – What amazed me
more was how close Dave Weatherby and myself were for asking for a “cutting”
of it but never did – oh and I have placed a picture below left of Dave Weatherby highlighting the colour of Midas again just to his right.
Myself and Terry, left Phil and Dave
in the main greenhouse, Ian and Robert basking in the sun – whilst we
went in to his “propagating greenhouse” to have a mooch around. The
pictures running from left to right below show you what he had growing:
Full view of the inside of this greenhouse.
View of the right hand side of this greenhouse showing his late starters.
View of the left hand side, in the middle are batch of little propagator
units housing cuttings that are being protected from the
heat by being
covered by a layer of newspaper. At the bottom of this bench were some
cane varieties and at the other end some rex’s
There was also a small plant of Red Flamboyant and by the look of it
Phil is close to getting pollen from it, as he is dabbling hybridizing
hanging basket type begonias.
Terry was looking at the rex’s when
Phil said he could help himself to what he wanted with regards the canes
& rex’s as he was trying to cut back on the numbers he was growing.
Showing Terry inspecting them.
A picture showing his ill-gotten gains.
Judy Champion called us all down to
the patio for dinner and once again we were spoilt rotten and to top it
we had a choice of strawberries and cream or homemade strawberry cream
sponge cake for desert – it was at this point we found out that one of
our party had an “addiction” to strawberries and cream as he had not
only a bowl of strawberries and cream but a slab of cake on top of it as
well – but not x1 helping but x3 helpings as you can see by the x3
pictures taken by Phil Champion below.
Now if any of you out there remember
the film – Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory where Violet
Beauregarde turns into a giant blueberry well we thought that Dave
Weatherby would turn into a giant strawberry – but alas he never……
After another walk round we made are
farewells to Phil and Judy Champion and started on our 3hr drive back to
Once again I will finish with a
picture of Dodgy Dave overdosed on strawberries fast asleep counting
strawberries jumping over fences whilst the rest of us chatted on the
I would like to take this opportunity
to thank Ian & Lynda Donaldson / Phil & Judy Champion for a fantastic
Until next time….