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CULTURAL DIARY   2018
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Tony Shepherdson

National Begonia Society Champion 12 Cut Blooms 2017
British Begonia Champion 12 Cut Blooms 2017

Episode 8 – mid May

The weather
What would we do without the British weather? Can you imaging what it would be like to have predictable weather for every month of the year. What would we have to complain about? What would we blame our failures on without our perennial scapegoat? Thankfully so far in 2018 the weather yet again has come to our rescue and has taken the blame – what a relief! No sooner did the cold, dull weather come to an end and it became far to hot in the greenhouses for my liking – we’ve got to have our scapegoat!
 

My first begonia talk
Sunday the 22nd April and I set off early morning with co-pilot Elsworth for the journey to Ayr. I had the details for our destination in hand – a couple of days before, I did a very quick check as to where we were headed, noting that it was the Auchinleck Bowling Club, then a quick look on the internet gave me a postcode. I had arranged with Tom Brown to be there at 12.30 and we duly arrived at 12.20. A brief nose about found the place to be deserted but unconcerned, I stopped for a minute or two to think what to do next while I looked with just a bit of envy at the immaculate crowned green. I decided to just give it a few more minutes then ring Tom. ‘Is Barbara Alexander not there yet?’ he said when I rang – ‘she said she would be there before 12.30 to meet you’. Then he said, ‘You are at the indoor bowling club aren’t you?’ This was followed a long pause while I slowly considered the perfectly mown grass that I had just been admiring – ‘Err no Tom’ I said, ‘I think that this might be the outdoor one!’
Obviously two things emerged from this conversation; firstly, bowling must be very popular in Auchinleck – population 3,650 at the last census and secondly, I am not as thorough as I sometimes think I am! Another check on the Internet gave me the correct postcode and when I keyed it in to the sat nav, it told me that it was only 430 yards away so by 12.45 we were there!
The indoor bowling club is a thriving venue that seems very well run and not long after we arrived, teams started to turn up for the afternoon fixtures. The room we were in overlooked the playing area so I thought to myself – at least if I’m boring everyone they can turn around and watch the bowls! The SWSBS gave us a very friendly welcome; it was nice to catch up again with Tom Brown, Willie McBride and also Kennedy McQuiston who I had arrange to do a bit of horse trading with, so once the swap was done and my new acquisition was safe in the car boot it was down to business. Once my nerves settled, thanks to a very friendly welcome I think I got into my stride and I don’t think I missed anything. I thought of a few things afterwards to amend but overall it went well. Thanks again to Barbara, the committee and all of the members. 

Cuttings update
My earliest cuttings that I hope to flower this year were first potted into 3 inch pots are now in 1 litre pots and growing well. Not a huge amount of top growth at this stage but the roots are moving and once they get round the compost the tops will catch up and they are on course to go into their 2 litre finals in early June which is about the same as last year. I don’t think at this stage that any of them are far on enough to use for Shrewsbury but I reckon that they will make up around 25 to 30% of my Dundee plants, only time will tell. The main batch, which are destined for cutting tubers are now rooted and ready to move on – again into 3 inch pots for a couple of weeks because I don’t have the space to put them straight into 1 litre pots yet. I’ve taken around another 150 cuttings of a mixture of new varieties that I am building up stock of and those varieties I am short of and will continue taking them until I am confident I have enough. 

Final potting approaches
The Shrewsbury plants are about on a par with last year and final potting for them will start around 14th May. The Dundee plants are a bit behind last year but not quite as much as I would like them to be. I expect the bulk of the final potting for them will be done week commencing 21st May or as soon as I have finished potting up the aforementioned cuttings although there are quite a few of the Dundee cutting tubers in 1 litre pots that will need to be potted up soon. So far I haven’t had to give any supplementary feeds but I have started with overhead foliar feed sprays of Maxicrop (brown bottle) every other day. This is usually described as a growth stimulant rather than an actual feed; the foliage certainly looks better for it – the colour improves and the leaves start to thicken up which makes me feel good and more inclined to lavish even more care and attention on them! 

Handover of the Ingleston plants
Into the second week of May and the time had finally arrived to had over my early plants grown for Gardening Scotland at Ingleston. This was with mixed feelings because I was pleased that I had managed to get them to the point where potentially they could deliver blooms of some description but frustrated because it would have been nice to have kept them until the date of the show but I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to go to the show so I had to accept the kind offer of Bob Robertson to look after them for the final three weeks. This would also give me the opportunity to transport reasonably developed plants it the car – albeit without fully developed blooms! This is what they looked like a couple of days before they went – see below, left – Tigger and Colin Hamilton and right – Nichola Coates and Symestar

                

What’s keeping me awake at night?
Although I’ve had one go at my talk a few weeks ago, it’s the big one coming up soon and whereas the first one was for the polite, well behaved gentlefolk of the West of Scotland Begonia Society, this time I have to face ‘Hecklers Corner’ that some would say is the SBS answer to the Coliseum of ancient Rome! Seriously, this is becoming a great SBS tradition – full of good humour and banter among friends that just adds to the entertainment of the meeting. 

Apologies for the lateness of this episode – reading it through, it seems like a long time ago!  It’s been a busy few weeks and I’m out of practice when it comes to hard graft these days! I hope to get another episode done for the end of May or thereabouts – I’ll try to include a few more photos for next time as well! 

Next episode – SBS and EOSBS meeting reports and final potting and cutting update. Hopefully some news on Ingleston.

 

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