Tag Archives: Begonia ‘Paul Hernandez’

Friday clippings 8/22/14


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At first sight I became enthralled by artist James Griffith’s exquisite, painterly ripostes to the “drill, baby, drill” set — my words, not his. James is much more polite.
By way of a secret alchemy, he utilizes that precious resource from our local La Brea Tar Pits in a uniquely subversive fashion, to cover canvases with delicate, etching-like portraits of species that don’t get a say in our energy politics, such as the humble and familiar crow, bat, mouse, and deer. His work reminds that all species are stuck in this moment together. I love my little tar bat that was last year’s Christmas present.

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James has a new show beginning September 6, 2014, at the Craig Krull Gallery at Bergamot Station, where you can see the latest members of his tar pit menagerie.

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James is also co-creator with garden designer Sue Dadd of the Folly Bowl, their own personal outdoor amphitheater in which they host a summer-long series of concerts. This coming Saturday’s concert, August 23rd, is described on their Facebook page for The Folly Bowl. If you go, keep an eye out for one of the biggest Agave franzosinii south of the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

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Drawing from the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Plants at Harvard. Collection manager Jenny Brown and glass artist Christian Thornton will be two of the lecturers at Natural Discourse this October 18, 2014.

Another date to save: On October 18, 2014, impresario, artist, and garden designer Shirley Watts, is bringing Natural Discourse: Light & Image to the Los Angeles County Arboretum, which promises to be another amazing day of riveting lectures, this time here in our very own backyard. Shirley assembles together for one day the equivalent of a botanical salon filled with some of the most interesting speakers I’ve been privileged to hear. I wrote about them here and here and here — you can do a blog search for other posts too. Richard Turner, former editor of Pacific Horticulture, had this to say of earlier iterations of Natural Discourse:

The first symposia, held at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, were among the very best days I’ve ever spent sitting and listening to others speak.

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The Ruth Bancroft Garden by Marion Brenner, who will be one of the lecturers at Natural Discourse October 18th, 2014, at Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden.

Garden bloggers in particular won’t want to miss a single pearl of wisdom that falls from legendary landscape photographer Marion Brenner’s lips at this upcoming Natural Discourse: Light & Image.

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Sansevieria ‘Black Gold’ at California Greenhouses

If anyone is tempted to visit the Orange County nurseries I mentioned here, I hope I caught you before you made the trip. You must add to your itinerary California Greenhouses.
Annette Gutierrez, co-owner of Potted, recommended this one to me, and I checked it out earlier this week. It is worth the trip alone.

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Some nurseries, like sports teams, have a “deep bench,” and California Nurseries has one of the deepest around.
Succulents in all sizes, from enormous dragon trees, tree aloes, and Yucca rostrata, to table after table of all the wee ones we love to stuff in pots, and at nearly wholesale prices.
Fantastic section of houseplants too.

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California Greenhouses currently has a couple enormous Aloe capitata var. quartzicola for sale, at least 3-gallon size if not 5.
More than double the size of this Aloe capitata var. quartzicola, photo taken in my garden this June.

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Department of Corrections: This is one of the so-called shrub begonias ‘Paul Hernandez,’ and it’s managed to thrive despite my having the blackest thumb a begonia enthusiast can have. I wish Freud had wondered instead what a begonia wants, because I sure as heck don’t know. I’ve made some comments that reference this gunnera-sized begonia as ‘Gene Daniels,’ so I need to correct that. I don’t think I’ve ever grown ‘Gene Daniels,’ but two begonias named after guys — you can see how I made the mistake. Checking the blog, I see that ‘Paul Hernandez’ dates back to 2011 in my garden, the only begonia I’ve grown with that kind of longevity, so we need to keep his identity straight. Good plants need to be rewarded; the next big pot I buy is going to be for Paul. Judging by the mottled color, I think Paul looks a little hungry. Maybe some fish emulsion?

I’ll close with my favorite quote of the week: “‘At the end of the day,’ Dr. Richard wrote in his diary this summer, ‘the plants are still in need of a drink, and so are we.’”

At least I have that in common with the energetic couple restoring a 250-year-old house in southwest France. There were a couple more epigrammatic, Wilde-worthy quotes in The New York Times article and luscious slideshow, “A Blank Slate With Fig Trees,” including success with houseguests requires “to never see them over breakfast.”

Happy weekend!


Begonia partita

The begonia genus is so vast, that the best approach is to find a guide or mentor to help wade through the many species and hybrids to find the really interesting plants and those most suitable to your tastes and growing conditions, whether those conditions might be outdoors year-round or must necessarily include spending winter indoors or under greenhouse care. I haven’t found a guide yet, or joined the local begonia society, or taken even the small amount of trouble to buy a book, so my lazy approach has been hit-and-miss. I blame this slothful, indiscriminate approach on living in zone 10, knowing that at the very least, whatever cultural mistakes I may make, any begonia I trial will be in no danger from frost. As far as parameters, I’m more interested in the leaves than flowers, with one of my few guidelines being to avoid altogether begonias with pink flowers. The trifecta of white petals, yellow anthers, and green leaves to me is botanical perfection. As in Japanese anemones, calla lilies, regal lilies, Magnolia grandiflora, Romneya coulterii, Carpenteria californica, Cistus ‘Bennett’s White,’ and so on. None of which I grow at this time. But I do grow Begonia dregei var. partita, which came labeled as Begonia partita, a South African species which carries these bracingly clean colors on a plant whose dainty charms are always a challenge for me to convey via photos.

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Although my zone 10 is as good a place as any to grow begonias, it’s only been the past few years that I’ve really started paying attention to this genus. And while the selection at local nurseries is slowly improving, it’s still mostly the common bedding forms, the semperflorens or “wax” begonias, that get most of the bench space, when the protean world of begonias has so much more to offer. As with agaves, the really great plants are to be found with specialist growers. (Kartuz Greenhouses has a wonderful selection.) There’s the fantastical hybrids of the rhizomatous begonias, tuberous begonias like B. boliviensis, sutherlandii, and the relatively hardy B. grandis. Species like B. luxurians, the Palm-leaf begonia, and its hybrids like ‘Paul Hernandez.’

The hit-and-miss approach does turn up some losers, but as luck would have it I have stumbled onto what’s turned out to be not just a good begonia but a very good garden plant, Begonia partita, which is both evergreen, not requiring a dormancy period, and doesn’t mind conditions on the dry side, as occasionally can happen with a slightly haphazard summer watering regimen. What I didn’t know when I bought it, being more attracted by the tiny, ivy-like leaves, was that this begonia is caudiciform, forming a swollen base or caudex, and for this reason is often grown as a bonsai specimen. What this means to me is that it’s an amazingly tough plant for summer containers. Closeup of swollen stems:

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Also known as the Maple-leaf Begonia, it flowers prolifically and spills and mingles nicely amongst other summer growers in containers.
I doubt I’ll ever give it the full bonsai treatment, though, highlighting the swollen stems and caudex, but that water-retention strategy makes this dainty number amazingly easy to grow. Which gives me a boost of confidence as I dabble in this huge genus, knowing it contains gems like Begonia partita.

Foliage Follow-Up January 2011

I missed contributing to January’s Bloom Day, the 15th of every month, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens, but can’t wait to check out the participating blogs, over 100 from all over the world. In my own zone 10 garden in Southern California, there could be a huge variety of plants in bloom, but my 800-square-foot back garden has little new to report for January. There are some blooms, like Begonias luxurians and hybrid ‘Paul Hernandez,’ that made the cut for this January bloom day, but not much else. Pam’s blog Digging hosts the Foliage Follow-Up on the 16th, which seems the closest fit for this post. Warm thanks to Carol and Pam for hosting these memes, which will provide lots of good reading for the upcoming week.

(For record-keeping’s sake, Salvia ‘Waverly’ has made every bloom day post, including January’s, but another photo seems wearily gratuitous at this point.
It’s a sad truism that good, dependable plants inevitably become boring, but constantly taking a chance on the rare and untried has more than once left me with a garden with not much thriving and lots of bare ground. And the hummingbirds would never forgive me if I gave this salvia’s place to anything else.)


Begonia ‘Paul Hernandez.’

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Both of these large begonias were planted at the base of the southern boundary, a 6-foot cinder-block wall that continues to “grow,” aided and abetted by the creeping fig, Ficus pumila, previous owners planted to cover the wall. I welcome this extra privacy to an extent, but the wall has now reached an unruly height of 10 feet tall and is decidedly overdue for a winter trimming. I watched a possum snuggle into the fig’s maze of branches a couple mornings ago after a night out on the town, the urban equivalent of a hedgerow. The shade against the wall is almost too deep for the begonias, but increasingly I’m preferring to find homes for plants in the garden as opposed to keeping them in pots. Watering containers 12 months a year quickly becomes the worst kind of ball and chain. I may dig up both begonias for summer and give them seasonal cushy container quarters. The roots of the creeping fig are probably too much competition for them. Whether they stay planted or get potted again depends on how many other containers the terraces have to contend with this summer. (For reasons too tedious to untangle, I can’t bring myself to use the word “patio,” most likely because my parents had patios, but “terrace” does seem out of place for Los Angeles. What else can we call these places where people and plants sit during warm months?)

The corsican hellebores temporarily have the run of the garden. They’re all seedlings from one plant, providing ribbons of incredible acid-green coloring as if to taunt, “You want spring? I’ll give you spring! How’s that? Green enough for you?!”


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Anigozanthos ‘Yellow Gem’ and Pennisetum spatiolatum. It’s time to cut this grass back, but it has such incredible energy, like little missiles being launched, that I’m enjoying it for as long as possible.

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This young winter-blooming clematis, C. cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream,’ threading through a coprosma, will probably sit out 2011.

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Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear,’ silver pony foot, and Lotus berthelotii are suitably chilly for winter. I wonder if I’ll enjoy this pot as much in spring.

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