Friday, August 2, 2013

The Next New Thing and this years Pack Trials

Golden State Bulb Growers’ participation in the California Pack Trials is long past.   All the begonias for next season's harvest are already planted.   I had hoped to write, in a timely manner, on all these activities, but it’s amazing how the days go when the pace picks up. 

The pack trials were very well attended this year.  Why?  The improving economy? An upswing in our industry?  New exciting products?  Really it was probably just the lousy long winter most of the country had while we had an early and glorious spring.  Who wouldn’t want to leave gray Indiana for a nice week-long, expense paid, jaunt in sunny California?  Rent the convertible Mustang; hey it isn’t that much more than the base model.

California Pack trials are all about what’s new.  The Trade Journal writers show up, ask; “What’s new?”  take photos of the latest new thing, get back in the rental car and on to the next place (get the Mustang next time). 

We made a bench of just our new stuff so they didn’t have to waste their time looking at all the old stuff.

What’s new is not necessarily what’s better.

Someone asked me, while we were standing in the begonia house “So, these are all your creations then?”

“Umm, no.” 

“I inherited the program from the previous breeder and I will pass it on to the next” 

 We make incremental changes and variations on a theme, does that count as new?  On Tops®, are they new?  I made those first crosses 20 years ago.

Tuberous begonias are good, we’re working on them, they’re not new, they’re better.

Let’s look at a few photos from the pack trials.

My wife says this looks Photo-Shopped.  It's not.  Our #11 Ruffled Orange.


Trial Bench, 6 inch pots on the left and 8 inch pots on the right.  They like the room in the 8 better, the bigger the pot the better.

Begonia House 2013 Demos.

For Golden State Bulb Growers, the Demos are mostly about Callas.  Here is the center piece of the calla house.

AmeriHybrid and Antonelli cross gone, frankly, a bit over the top.
 So, our begonias are not the Latest New Thing.  I don’t want to brag too much, but I think if you compare the begonias we are growing now with the begonias that were photographed by Ansell Adams, you can see that we have improved in a mere (!) 63 years since those photos were taken (only 30 of those years have I had any hand in this).

Thanks and good luck in the future.  -Andy



  1. The begonias look lovely. Ya done good, sweetheart!

  2. I know the work you do is hard, but wouldn't this qualify as one of those "best hard jobs ever"?
    I'm just looking at the photos of your work place. Surrounded by beautiful flowers, creating (or modifying) something and getting to watch it grow.
    Eric L

  3. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. It’s true that the begonia breeding is the best part of my job and I enjoy working with and around plants.

    The fact is however, that it is a small part of my job. Most of my work is in the production and processing of our various crops with it’s budgets and the hard reality of profit or loss (sound familiar?).

    There were many years when I only had time to make the begonia crosses after work and on the weekends, almost more of a hobby than a “real” job. I am trying to get the begonias back into the central part of my work day.

    Good to hear from you -Andy

  4. Does anybody else notice that in the photo of the "centerpiece of the calla house," the most spectacular thing is the hanging basket begonia? I sure did.

  5. So glad you've posted again. The AmeriHybrid/ Antonelli cross isn't over the top, it's gorgeous!

  6. Hi Ruth,

    Thanks for you kind words. There are some great crosses in the field this year too. I'll try to write about them soon.

  7. Hi! Loved the blog and the photos. Our begonias were awesome this year. Much like the first picture. Didn't get any callas this year. I have 3 hanging baskets of begonias, two large tubs and a few others tucked here and there. I send my thanks and blessings to you every time I see them. We appreciate you! Love, Mary Shaull

  8. Hi Mary,
    I am happy that your begonias are good this year. I tell everyone that begonias grow fine in Michigan.
    Thanks for the kind thoughts.
    Best Regards -Andy

  9. Hi Andy and Laura, I've been to Pack trials for the last 3 years and you do an excellent job. I was very impressed.
    Your Watsonville neighbors PPL were growing those smaller flowered, prolific, mostly single, B. boliviensis hybrids. I've had unimproved Begonia boliviensis growing happily in amended clay soil, and overwintering for more than 15 years. I like them but, mine don't look like much next to the new introductions. What impressed me at Spring Trials was the claim by Cultivaris that the plants can be shaken with out breaking. He was batting the plants around, without any noticeable damage. I know that a beautiful Begonia that could stand to be shipped in a box and come out looking good would be a great important change to the industry.
    Do you breed or plan to breed something like this? Doesn't it sound interesting? Peter

  10. Hi Peter,
    Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. I saw the Boliviensis selections at PPL and at Benary. I thought they looked good but it's not really our thing. We don't currently have any plans to market species. It would be fun though.
    thanks again for the comment. When were you at Hill Top to see the trials? Have we met?
    best regards Andy

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