Sunday, January 5, 2014
But where are all the begonias?
Begonia bed, August 2013
Begonia bed, January 2014
Somewhere, under the snow, I have begonias. At least I think I do. For the last few years I've been testing a large number of begonia species and hybrids for hardiness, and early results have been very promising: some of them have come through 1, 2, and even 3 winters. But let's face it, the last several winters haven't been a very rigorous test, with the lowest temperature since February 2009 being about 15 degrees and with few extended periods remaining below freezing. But that is all about to change: with a low in the single digits forecast for Monday night, it looks like they will finally be getting that test.
I'm actually pretty optimistic; despite the dire predictions for Monday through Wednesday, temperatures immediately before and after that period are supposed to be well above freezing. This should prevent the soil from freezing deeply, especially as I've applied a generous layer of mulch over all my begonias. The snow itself provides another layer of insulation from cold air temperatures.
I've already found with numerous begonias that, as long as their rhizomes don't freeze, they will come back in the spring: some earlier and more strongly than others, but I have had surprisingly few outright losses. My own crosses involving some of these begonias are likewise showing promising hardiness but I'll feel more confident when (if?) I see some of them emerging next spring. This may be the winter that separates the somewhat hardy from the truly hardy!
Some of the hardy(ish) begonias so far have been:
B. pedatifida (2 winters)
B. U584 (2 winters)
B. U475 (2 winters)
B. 'Torsa' (lower left), B. emeiensis (upper right); both have survived 2 winters
But the most ornamental survivor has been 'Little Brother Montgomery', which has survived 3 winters in my garden so far (and was featured in an earlier blog post):
B. 'Little Brother Montgomery'