Why do people have such a love-hate relationship with begonias?

Do you have a love-hate relationship with begonias?

Begonia ‘Lotto Mixed’

Even the word ‘begonia’ makes some people cringe and squirm with flower-based fear. Well, I wanted to find out why this was, and see how we can change people’s attitudes.

Think back 50 years or so, and of course the range of begonias available was much smaller and much more, ahem, ‘chintzy’! They became a staple of many bedding schemes, and in some cases, were quite over-used. Begonias have become as disliked as euonymus is as a municipal shrub. Begonias became the lazy choice for parks and gardens up and down the country, often with the same old, tired varieties; either a mushy begonia semperflorens or the superb, but over-bright ‘Non-stop’ series! Sadly, marigolds are subject to the same vehement distaste (we’ll work on them next year).

Breeding in begonias has been a focus of some of the top breeding companies over the last 20 years. The results are phenomenal and really take begonias into the 21st century. I’m glad breeders cottoned on to the benefits of begonias and recognised their UK suitability. What other summer-flowering plant can shrug off regular downpours, ever-changing temperatures, AND grow in shade?

Growing begonias - where do you start?

The patio version of ‘Apricot Shades’

So I’m hoping those ‘love-hate’ relationships will turn to love in 2014! Gone are the awkward soldier-like plants of begonia semperflorens, we now have ‘Whopper’ and ‘Lotto Mixed’, which are like begonias on steroids. What this actually gives is something vigorous, a plant that will cover the soil, less weeding, less watering, and quick, easy impact. And, there are now some lovely alternatives to those flamboyant ‘Non-stop’ types, such as ‘Non-stop Mocca’, with dusky black leaves (it always sells out so quickly, so be quick), or the proud ‘Patio Apricot Shades’, with weatherproof blooms, held way above the foliage for all to see.

And, I won’t even start on FRAGRANT begonias. Watch out for a seperate blog on those…