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Home > Begonian > Volume 67 (January/February 2000)

California Daydreaming, Part 2
by Mary Elizabeth Moultrie

Mary Elizabeth continues her Begonia Kaleidoscopes' tours begun in the last issue.

Our first stop on Thursday afternoon was at the home of Brad Thompson. So many of us own Brad's hybrids. I want to say that Brad's yard is small; but then, how could something so small hold so many plants. For those of us who have small greenhouses and small patios, we want to know how can one put so many plants in such a small space. We try with little success. Always, the question is "where can we put it?" We need to know Brad's secret.

When we arrived at Bob and Iris's, we had to wait in the front yard because the other people from the other bus were still in the back yard. As I walked over the front yard, I came to realize that people in California do not have lawns, they have flowers. Every spot was such a delight that I expected that the back yard would be more of the same, but what a surprise. Bob and Iris's back yard is like entering the whole flowerbed. There is no possible way to describe the beauty of this place. Imagine that you are in a perfectly planted terrarium. Everywhere there are begonias, ferns, streptocarpus and cactus and succulents, and all are in perfect condition. Their back yard is the Begonia Show and the Fern Show combined into a luxurious daydream of wonder. I told Eddie to see what happens when the man gets involved, and he told me that it was the weather. I am sure that the weather conditions help, but one could not help but notice that this was the most loved yard. Had Madame Walska loved her estate as much as Bob and Iris love their yard? This was not just a labor of love, but a full time passion. I will try harder. And there was Begonia 'Lotusland' looking stately and right at home in the wonderland of Bob and Iris's yard. We had been to the pinnacle. There was no need for the judged show. We had seen the best.

But still there was more. As we headed to Ruth and Walter Pease's house, I was still in a state of amazement at all that I had seen. Could begonias really grow this well? The answer was waiting for me at Ruth and Walter's. As we entered their backyard, we saw so many begonias and of such variety. I believe that almost everyone saw a begonia that he had been wondering about, but Ruth and Walter actually owned one and it was in perfect condition. At this point, I am trying not to be envious, and Eddie is reminding me to remember the weather, and then, the day dreaming returns. Maybe there is a way to make begonias love Atlanta, or should we just move to California?

Friday morning was an especially enjoyable treat for Eddie and me because we had wondered and thought about the Getty Museum for many years. Well, not only does California have perfect begonias and perfect weather, the Friday morning of our arrival at the Getty was the most perfect day. The sky was so clear and blue, and as we arrived at the top of the hill, you could see for miles around. The view of the surrounding landscape with ocean, valley, skyscrapers, and mountains was a strong competitor for the building, which was a beautiful white against the clear blue sky. Okay, so today we will take a break from flowers and focus on architecture. For a while we did, but the Getty has this wonderful garden, and it simply took my breath - literally. I can still smell the blend of roses, heliotrope and lilies. And the colors were all of my favorites and the sky was as blue as I have seen it. Some of the plant material in the garden was very familiar to me, and I do indeed have some of the same plants. The main difference is that mine are in no way as large. The blue sky and the fragrance and the pinks and the purples -- we wanted to stay all afternoon, but we knew the evening would bring the show and the plant sale. My daydreams were turning into determination.

Joy of joys, there was a Begonia "Lotusland" at the plant sale. It, as well and another Begonia 'Freddie' was one of the first plants that I put into my box. I had been inspired, and I had dreamed big, and then I went into the plant show. The begonias were the biggest and the most perfect that I had seen. What a combination! My hope began to dim. The challenge for me would be too great. Maybe I will get some ferns at the fern show tomorrow. I have been able to grow some rather fine ferns.

The drive over to the Los Angles Arboretum was not only a delight, but it was also one filled with much anticipation. The people who love begonias seem to have an affinity for ferns as well. One would have never been able to guess that this same group of people had been to a plant sale the night before. We were simply devouring all kinds of ferns and unusual tropical plants. Something was going to grow for us. We were determined that some part of California would be going home with us.

There was one final tour planned for Sunday morning. We had heard some comments about how we were going to love Elda Regimbal's garden, but there was no way for us to image the treat that was in store for us. At her house, she not only had the biggest and best begonias, but also the biggest and best ferns. All of the dreams that we had had at the begonia show and the fern show came together in Elda's yard. As we kept walking and looking and ohing and ahing, we could not help but notice that she had several greenhouses with baby plants. The word soon got around that these would be available for us to buy. Once again we were off to see the wonderful specimens that Elda had so that we could know what our babies would some day look like. There were so many dreams and possibilities.

When I was growing up there was a saying that "As California goes, so goes the country." I certainly do hope that this applies to begonias and ferns. We have come home with such high hopes. Going to the American Begonia Society Convention is a little like going to a revival meeting. My Begonia 'Jumbo Jet' only has two leaves now, but I have every confidence that it will some day be as large as Eida's. My Begonia, 'Lotusland' will look like Iris', and my Begonia 'Freddie' will be as spectacular as the one John Howell brought to the Southwest Region Get-Together in Ft. Worth. Believing is what it is all about. Some people came home with seeds or a single leaf. Daydreams do and can come true. Thank you California Begonia Societies for such a spectacular week. All of the things that I had daydreamed about were beyond my wildest expectations, and the surprises that you had planed for me will be sustenance enough for the long winter ahead.

B. 'Airy Fairy'

Among the many begonias seen on tours were B. Airy Fairly' (B. dregei 'Glasgow' x sutherlandii) at Michael Kartuz' greenhouse and B. 'Culture Class' (B. dregei 'Glasgow' x 'Lenore Oliver') which was only one of the many, many canes at Wlda Regibal's.  Both these 1990 hybrids are by Brad Thompson.  Photos are by Joyce Pridgen

.B. 'Culture Class'

Mary Elizabeth's enthusiasm captures for all of us memories of California that we will carry for a long time. She is now growing her B. 'Lotusland' and B. 'Freddie' back at Atlanta, GA.

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