The American Garden 9: 330 (Sept 1888)
BEGONIAS OLD AND NEW
W. F. Massey.

There is no one genus which affords more of variety and interest to the lover of plants than the begonia, and as nearly all of them are of the easiest culture and do well with but little sunlight none are better adapted to the needs of the large class of amateurs who have no plant houses. They like plenty of heat, but are troubled by few insect enemies, and most of them grow so readily from slips that they ought to be popular. A few sorts are cultivated by most ladies who grow window plants, and they call them beefsteak geraniums, grape geraniums and other outlandish names. This family has always been a favorite with me, and with your permission I will name a few which are desirable. One of the easiest grown and one which is always in bloom.

Begonia Gowery is found almost everywhere in collections of window plants, and is called by the ladies hereabouts beefsteak geranium. Its hardiness and the profusion with which it produces its pale, flesh-colored flowers make it a general favorite.

Begonia nitida, though not so free blooming as the first, makes a splendid window plant. Its foliage is broad, thick and glossy, and its large trusses of flowers are pale flesh, nearly white in color.

B. Saundersonii is an old favorite. It is not particularly handsome in foliage, but its wonderful production of brilliant carmine, waxy flowers entitles it to a place in every collection.

B. Ingramii is similar, but with better foliage and stronger growth. It blooms much less frequently than Saundersonii.

B. Gilsoni, or Gibsoni as some catalogues have it, makes a magnificent plant, with immense foliage and a stately habit. Its double, sweet scented flowers are of an indescribable tint of pinky flesh color and are very handsome.

B. coccinea, or rubra as it is generally called, I have already spoken of as the finest of window plants. In fact, I have seen this much finer in window culture than I have usually found it in greenhouses. The practice now general among all florists 01 growing this variety from seed renders it difficult to get the true sort, for it sprouts from seed in all shades, from white to crimson. The true sort is a brilliant red. Its majestic proportions and the freedom with which it covers itself with its immense trusses ot bloom make it very desirable. I once saw a plant of this trained up the iron pillars of a conservatory to a height of 15 feet and covered with flowers from the ground. It was a sight worth going miles to see. The variety of shades of this sort to be had from a package of seed renders the growth of the seedlings interesting.

B. fuchsioides is of strong growth, has small, pointed leaves and pendulous red flowers, but is not very free in blooming. There is a white variety of this which is better.

B. alba has long, orbiculate leaves and makes a fine specimen, with numerous large clusters of pure white flowers.

B. Washingtoniana (our botanical friends will observe that I give "trade" names only, such as are known in the catalogues; few catalogues are exactly correct as to species, and, in fact, most of those described are "garden" varieties) makes a majestic plant, and is very

easily grown to a large size. Its broad, heavy foliage and stout, erect growth makes it desirable, but it is shy in blooming. The flowers are small, pure white, in large trusses.

B. hybrida multiflora is of neat habit and free growth. Its foliage is neat, small and glossy, and its little pink flowers are freely produced.

B. Bertha de Chateaurocher, in spite of its outlandish name, is one of the best of the newer sorts. It is in the style of Saundersonii, but has better foliage. The stems are dark red and contrast well with the glossy green of the leaves. Flowers bright red and very freely produced. We think highly of this variety. All the above are of the kinds grown for their flowers, though the foliage of all is handsome.

The following are grown more for their fine foliage:

Begonia Rex, in endless variety of leaf, is well known to all plant growers. The varieties are now so numerous that few florists are particular to keep them named. All are handsome and easy to grow if their wants are known. They need partial shade, a light porous soil and free drainage, and don't like water on their leaves. With these conditions and plenty of heat they are sure to give satisfaction. I have had fair success with them bedded out on a shady mound in summer, but they cannot be called good bedding plants. Some of the best varieties are Queen of Hanover, The O'Donoghue, Marshalii, Nebulosa, Grandis and, of course, the original " rex."

B. melallica is the best of all the ornamental leaved varieties outside the rex family. To develop the full metallic lustre of the foliage it must have partial shade. It is an erect grower and makes a fine specimen, and also blooms quite freely.

B. sanguinea has olive green leaves, with the under side a deep red. Flowers white. This is harder to keep in good shape than most of the begonias, as its thick leaves break and crack like pie crust if handled rudely.

B. atrosanguinea is similar to this, but with dark blood red foliage.

B. nigricans is a perfect gem. The ground color of its leaves is a reddish chocolate, covered with a filigree of silver. The plant is of dwarf habit, and in addition to its lovely foliage blooms freely in clusters of pale pink.

B. alba picta is a dwarf form of the old argyrostigma, and is much more desirable. Its long, narrow leaves are thickly covered with silver dots, and the plant is one of the neatest and prettiest in the list.

B. W. E. Gumbleton is a hybrid between rex and discolor. It has the handsomely marked leaves of the rex family, with the erect habit of discolor, and is well worth growing.

B. diadem is also a rex-discolor hybrid. It has palmate leaves, handsomely marked with silver. Rather delicate in growth.

B. orbiculata lineata has dark olive green leaves, marked with silvery veins. The leaves look more like satin than anything else. But it is impossible to go through the whole list of desirable soils in an article like this. The above are all good and our description is from notes taken to-day from growing specimens in our own collection.


But we must not neglect the wonderful family of tuberous rooted begonias which have of late years been brought to such wonderful perfection. Of course, they are useless as window plants in winter, but for pot culture in summer and for bedding out in favorable situations they are superb. Some succeed finely in beds, but the best way to grow them is to start the bulbs in March and grow them in pots during the summer. They are seldom kept to name now, but in a dozen unnamed tubers you will hardly get two alike. They sprout in all colors, from white, flesh, yellow to deep red, double and single. We had flowers the past summer 3 inches in diameter, and the plants were huge bouquets of bloom.

The begonia of all others as a bedder, and the only perfectly hardy one, is the old discolor or evansiana. This is a tuberous rooted variety and is entirely hardy. We have had it come through 200 below zero unharmed in its winter bed. I once had two beds of it in which we planted tulips and hyacinths between the begonias every fall. In spring the tulips and hyacinths first appeared, and were ready to be taken out by the time the begonias appeared above the ground. By midsummer the beds were a mass of handsome begonia foliage, and in late summer and autumn were covered with the great trusses of pink flowers. In the greenhouse this begonia rapidly becomesa weed under the benches from the multitude of bulblets it makes in the axils of the leaves. It is the only begonia I know that is strictly a first-class bedding plant in full sun. It ought to be grown more for this purpose.

Virginia. W. F. Massey.