Sirekit Mol is the salesperson for one of Europe’s largest begonia suppliers, where they use cutting-edge technology to raise a range of begonias, including the unique new, powerfully fragrant ‘Fragrant Falls’ series. Here, she offers a view from ‘the other side of the fence’!

Working for Beekenkamp, my garden was full of begonias last year, so that I could check out the newest developments and make comparisons on the old varieties. I live up north and in October and November the weather was all over the place.

When I looked out of my window in November, I could see that my plants were just at the stage where they could no longer stand night frosts. Say, for instance, this little beauty – ‘Angel Falls Soft Pink’. This picture was taken at the beginning of November, but just a couple of weeks later the weather was getting too much for it.

Beekenkamp - producing begonias on a large scale

Begonia ‘Angel Falls Soft Pink’

This picture of begonia ‘Vintage Pink’ was taken at the end of November. Given that we had some frost and plant was already in flower at the end of May, it’s still going strong. The same goes for the picture on the right, begonia ‘Summer Glory’. To be honest, I am still impressed at how they looked after the wet and cold we had…

With so many seed- and cutting-raised varieties on the market, Beekenkamp constantly tries to improve on existing begonias. Beekenkamp’s focus is on the cutting-raised market.

But growing up and living alongside begonias, the possibilities are endless. Plus we have a high-tech facility in our own laboratory and we do a lot of work on the houseplant begonia elatior.

The team of breeders and sales people work together, using feedback from the market and finding out what people like and dislike. I know everybody has their own taste and sometimes it could get a bit messy. But that is just the fun of it.

Say, for instance, our new BEAUVILIA tm range, an outdoor begonia boliviensis.

First of all, you need a female and a male plant, to do some crossings. Both plants need the characteristics of what we like. For example, colour, shape, scent and the branching. Out of the hundreds of crossings, we put a little tag on the plants, to make sure we know who the parents are of the potential newborn begonia.

Beekenkamp - producing begonias on a large scale

Tagging parent plants

After a while, and we are talking months and months, not days, we select about 10 plants out of the hundreds and hundreds of plants grown to take it a level up. We leave about 30 plants as they are, as we are yet not sure about the potential.

With the 10 plants we’ve selected, we continue to multiply the plants to see whether the newborns are stable lines. Beekenkamp tests the plants indoors and out. We ask for advice from the consumer, what they think of it at every stage of the development. Also the logistic bit, whether they can stand different temperatures and light levels. We also have to be careful on the selection of what we bring out commercially, as the cost of one plant is sometimes more than a year’s salary to us. So we have to be sure that the performance is high within the supply chain.

So, a year later, a new begonia boviliensis BEAUVILIA tm series in salmon pink is born and it got some siblings too…

Beekenkamp - producing begonias on a large scale

Begonia Beauvilia Salmon

The siblings are Beauvilia Lemon and Beauvilia White.

Beekenkamp - producing begonias on a large scale

Beauvilia series

They all ticked our boxes and Beekenkamp decided to go ahead with these colours. The best news is, there are more colours in the pipeline in the BEAUVILIA tm series!

So there is a lot to think about before begonias are introduced onto the ‘commercial’ market. The shape, the colour, the flower, logistics and the shelf-life.

Beekenkamp is always aiming to produce a begonia that you can enjoy in your home and garden!