I have mentioned begonias before and how much I like them * and I was struck by the difference in size between two different begonias the other day. Now begonias come in lots of shapes and sizes and I generally prefer the odder kinds, often with small flowers. But I have to admit that I can’t fail to be impressed by the big, double tuberous kinds that seem to have their spiritual home in Scotland. When I was doing the rounds of the shows it was always in ‘the North’ that they seemed to reach their perfection and to have their most dedicated fans. I can’t say that I generally prefer double forms of flowers to their single, more natural counterparts – it all depends on what the plant is – but when it comes to begonias, the natural arrangement of four petals is slightly unsettling to me and the doubles often have more charm.
Charm is hardly the word for the big double tuberous begonias which are as monstrous as they are impressive.
Look closely at the flower above and you will see another begonia flower. This is off a plant of ‘Doublet Pink’ – and it is here that things start to get very peculiar. I have few plant hates but the semperflorens begonias are one of them. And yet – before I set sail for Ireland in June I was delighted to get three double semperflorens begonia plants in pink, red and white. These are like some similar older kinds I had years ago. I love the little rose-like flowers and the way they flower virtually all year if they are free from frost. So here we have two double begonias, one with flowers more than 15cm across and another less than 1cm.
Of course, begonias have male and female flowers, both on the same plant. Usually there is single male with a female on either side. The females (on the left below) are usually smaller and less double and it is accepted practice to pinch them off as soon as they are large enough to handle or the pair of them nudge the male off the plant so it lays face flat in the soil – presumably to avoid wasting time on the poor old male that, having provided some pollen, has no more use to the females. It is tough being a male sometimes!
You can see the three-sectioned ovary behind the female flower.
And below is the dark-leaved ‘Doublet Pink’ – sorry for the poor quality of the photo. It is totally ridiculous for me to love this plant but hate the singles – but there you are! Note the female flower at the bottom, centre of the photo – with fewer petals compared to the very double males.