Jour. Of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener, p. 83 (January 22, 1891)


FIG. 15. Begonia Winter Gem

WHEN Begonia socotrana was introduced to this country nine or ten years ago it was thought by some that while constituting a beautiful addition to our cultivated Begonias it would not be likely to help the hybridiser materially. Upon what this opinion was founded does not appear, but the fact remains that the converse has been abundantly proved, and there is every reason to expect still greater results. It will probably be remembered that when an illustration of B. socotrana was published in this Journal (p. 95, February 2nd, 1882) it was stated Messrs. J. Veitch & Sons of Chelsea had secured the stock, and further that the plants seemed to combine the characters of several popular types of Begonias. At Chelsea experiments were commenced with the plants as soon as they flowered, and one of the first crosses that produced any results was from B. socotrana as the seed parent and the variety Viscountess Doneraile as the pollen parent. The seed thus obtained was sown in December, 1883 one plant only was raised, and when this flowered it formed a distinct and beautiful acquisition, receiving the name of its raiser, "John Heal." It was shown at the meeting of the Royal Horticultural Society, October 13th, 1885, and was awarded a first-class certificate. The plant was very graceful in habit, with rich, rose-coloured, freely produced flowers, and we hazarded the prediction at the time that it would "probably prove the commencement of a new race of winter flowering Begonias."

Further experiments were tried, and in 1885 seed was obtained from a cross between an orange-scarlet Tuberous Begonia and John Heal, the former being the seed parent. The seed was sown in December of that year, and the plant obtained was shown and certificated on November 8th, 1887, under the name of Adonis. The flowers have broad petals of a rosy scarlet hue, very distinct in colour, and the plant in general habit resembles B. socotrana.

The third success is Winter Gem (fig. 15), for which the Floral Committee of the Royal Horticultural Society granted an award of merit at the meeting in January of the present year. This was raised from a cross between B. socotrana and a tuberous crimson-scarlet seedling. The seed was sown in February, 1886, and only one plant was obtained from the pod, exactly as in the case of John Heal and Adonis. It is of dwarf habit, with rounded leaves, and soft, rosy, well formed flowers, rather suggestive of the modern Zonal Pelargonium. It is free, lasts well, and is especially valuable for the fact that it flowers regularly in December, lasting to the end of January. The other two generally flower in October and November, so that Winter Gem forms a natural succession, it is a singular circumstance that the flowers seem to be all staminate, and this has been a difficulty in perpetuating the type. Fortunately they are increased by cuttings or bulbils, and every advance made will be watched with much interest. A pure white variety would be decidedly welcome; it is not too much even to expect a double variety, and if a group with marked variations can be once formed the plants will take a place amongst the most useful for winter.— C.

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