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Home > Begonian > Volume 67 (May/June 2000, pages 91 - 92)

A Beginner Considers Hybridizing Begonias as an Art Form
by Iris Bird

As a confessed beginner, attempting to hybridize, what could I tell another beginner, about the art of hybridizing? I would spend a couple of years familiarizing myself with the different 'kinds' of begonias I have the option and requirements for growing. I would analyze somewhat my growing areas; where would be the best location for them, are they canes, rhizomatous, shrub, thick stem, or, are they the species from the wild places of the world? Do they grow in a contained atmosphere? What is that? Who grows there? I asked myself these same questions five years ago. Do I want that one and for what? Yes, I desired the lovely unusual leaf of the rhizomatous begonia, and I try to collect one of each that I might have the good fortune of growing. I still 'need' many more. When I didn't have access to the plant, I collected leaves from whoever would share with me. Now, what did I do with the leaves? Made more plants. Hopefully growing them for show and for their blooms and pollen. At this writing all the rhizomatous are blooming, and seeing so many blooms with all that pollen, am I confused? Which one will be a good match for that one? Do I have in my collection compatible plants suitable for hybridizing? I don't really know. But, I have to try.

So, instructing a beginner in the art of hybridizing, one would have to begin by familiarizing oneself with the family Begoniaceae. Study them for their finer points and what it is you want to achieve. How to grow from seed. How to propagate from cuttings of all kinds. How to grow the begonia to a mature plant, with success. How To produce a show plant. How, and most important to me, to keep my plants in good condition and growing well. For years, you say? I guess the answer is yes. If a plant you are caring for conforms and adheres to an established standard and is still growing well after a couple of years, I think that plant has good genes and was hybridized well. This is not an easy task. I want to do the same! I would like to create one of those beautiful rhizomatous, such as B. rajah, or , B. 'Wanda', or a successfully hybridized cane, such as B. 'Irene Nuss'. There is nothing wrong with dreaming and giving it my best effort. These plants have grown for years and are always the same in appearance and their requirements never change. You can depend on their stability and constancy and benefit by these traits.

I have read about 'making' your own. Placing that pollen from that male flower onto this female flower. It is just that easy! Well, I don't think so. I stand in the yard and look over the many begonias we have, and I think, if I like that one and that one, why not do just that? Well, because they may not be compatible. They may be weak of stem, may both have few flowers, possible one needs more shade. By chance will they be the same, and need identical cultural requirements? NO. Chromosome numbers enter the picture here. Is the characteristic number in each plant correct? Please remember I am a beginner too.

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