Monday, July 30, 2012

Scented Begonias Revisited

This week we have a guest post. 

The views expressed by this guest writer do not reflect the views of the owners of this blog, it’s management or employees, but are strictly the opinions of the author.
(Who, by the way is my wife and mystery writer Laura Crum.)


Scented Begonias Revisited

            By Laura Crum

            I have to start this guest post on my husband’s begonia blog by admitting that I am no begonia expert. Yes, my maiden name was Brown and my family has been growing tuberous begonias for four generations. My first paying job was weeding flats of baby begonias in the greenhouse. But I never officially worked in the family business. I did marry the begonia breeder, however. So I have a certain degree of familiarity with tuberous begonias. Still, my greatest knowledge of them comes from my life as a gardener, and growing begonias at my home.

            I have another confession to make. Begonias are not my favorite plant. No, my heart goes to roses. Not the stiff, upright hybrid teas of florists shops and formal rose gardens. No. I love roses like this.

            And this.

            And this.

            Sorry begonia aficionados, but can your begonias do this?

            These roses, ramblers and climbers all, are not just beautiful and vigorous (I love vigor in a plant), but they are richly scented, such that when you walk up to the lovely display in the above photos, the scent hits you like a wave. This is what a plant ought to be.

I was fond of begonias, but not overfond, despite my long history with them. Just as I don’t care for overly hybridized looking roses, I did not care too much for the huge, heavy begonia blossoms, nodding uncertainly on the weak plants, needing staking and always looking quite unnatural. I also counted it as a fault that such a voluptuous looking flower had no scent. Imagine my delight when my new boyfriend introduced me to the scented begonias he had bred and was raising. I fell instantly in love—with both the plants and the man. Since then I have grown scented begonias on my porch every year, and can say for a fact that they are one of my favorite plants in the whole garden. (Roses are still number one.)

The reasons I love scented begonias are many, and not just limited to scent. I will be the first to admit that the scented begonias have a faint, and usually elusive scent. It doesn’t often hit you in a wave, like the roses. (Though it does have that effect when you walk through a field of scented begonias.) Once in awhile the half dozen plants on my porch will scent the air on a warm summer afternoon. But almost always, if I bend to smell a blossom, it smells sweet. However, the virtues of scented begonias are more than their fragrance.

Scented begonias remind me of the old-fashioned roses that I grow—the ramblers and climbers. These begonias have a more “species” look to them and a more natural form than the larger-flowered types. The scented begonias are overall quite vigorous, have a mildly cascading habit, and don’t need staking. All things to love in my book.

My son smelling a scented begonia.

Those who prefer the huge flowers of the classic large upright begonias may find the form of the scented begonia flowers disappointing. Here is a photo to show the contrast. (By the way, these begonias are growing on my back porch, and I am no professional grower. The scented begonia shown is the first flower of a plant that has come back year after year with no special care. It is the same plant shown in the photo above (Sunrise) of my son smelling a begonia, so you can see that its flowers do become larger later in the season.)

As you can see, the scented begonia has smaller, more “natural” flowers. Though I can admire the large ruffled flower, I think the smaller flower has more grace. This is exactly how I feel about the difference between the large flowered hybrid tea roses and the smaller flowered (and more vigorous) ramblers and climbers. I vote for grace, vigor and scent every time. But for some gardeners, I guess, size is what matters (did I really say that?).

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