“Once in a while you get shown the light; In the strangest of places if you look at it right.”
from “Scarlet Begonias” by the San Francisco band The Grateful Dead.
Well, I’m no Grateful Dead fan, but I am a begonia grower and it’s true you get shown the light in the strangest places, stay with me and I’ll show you.
For 30 years I have been growing tuberous begonias, approximately three million per year.Let’s see that makes, oh somewhere around 90,000,000 begonias. (no wonder I’m tired).
Before that, I was sort of nomadic.I left Michigan in 1968 for the corner of Haight and Ashbury, San Francisco.I traveled to the high Himalayas, sailed the South China Sea. I was always looking for a good light.I am settled here on the coast of California, where the fog gives a beautiful soft light to fields of begonias.
I don’t want to write a how-to blog about begonias, I can’t, I am no expert on how to grow begonias, but I know some experts.
There are other things to write about begonias
Let’s write about being shown the light in the strangest of places.
Let’s write about beauty.
About fashion versus style.
About home-grown versus mass produced.
About breeding begonias.
About the Old Ranch
About the history of this crop
Maybe, even something about growing begonias, who knows, let’s see where we go.
I want to make a couple things clear.I do not grow begonias for a hobby.I am a professional begonia grower. I work for Golden State Bulb Growers. We are the developer of the AmeriHybrid begonia.
I don’t however think that makes me a better begonia grower.I learn all the time from the begonia hobbyist.The person who grows begonias for a hobby has a passion that I can borrow from and learn from.For a hobby, I grow vegetables.
I don’t know about different types of begonias.I know about Begonia X Tuberhybrida.
I learned my trade from Todd Brown, who learned from his father Worth.Below you see a picture of myself and Todd Brown taken in 1985.I am studiously taking notes from that years “specific crosses” this is how I learned. (I will talk about that process in future posts)
Todd Brown (back to camera) and Andy Snow
I first photographed tuberous begonias in the Himalayas ten years earlier.I didn’t even know what those beautiful flowers were.
Below you see a picture of a Tibetan tending to tuberous begonias on a window sill of Ling Rinpoche’s house in Macleod Gange, above Dharmasala India.
Imagine my surprise when many years later, now working as begonia grower, I finally had the time to go over the hundreds of slides I had taken during my travels and found these photos.Hey! I know what those are. Those are begonias!
It’s been a long road, one that settled in sandy soil and drifting fog.
Begonia fields in Marina, Ca
I hope we can start a dialogue. I will try to post at least once per week.