Plants - Flower Bulbs

Aromatherapy: Growing scented tuberous begonias

The delightful fragrance of these blooms brings a new dimension to a favourite garden standby.

begonias-johnsmith.jpgKeep an eye out for these cultivars:

'John Smith'
In addition to the lauded ‘Yellow Sweetie’, Gardenimport also carries a new cultivar called ‘John Smith’ (2006), named for one of the breeders now working with the fourth generation of Langdons. It represents yet another begonia breakthrough, being the first upright (rather than pendulous) fragrant begonia cultivar in commerce. These tubers are pricey to begin with, and there are other costs associated with shipping and phytosanitary certification, so Dugald Cameron also offers a less-expensive selection of unnamed fragrant Blackmore & Langdon begonia tubers, all of them lovely in their own right.

'Yellow Sweetie'
In the late 1970s at Golden State Bulb Growers, begonia breeder Howard Siebold began a scented tuberous begonia breeding program using Blackmore & Langdon’s fragrant ‘Yellow Sweetie’ as the female parent in all his crosses, and eventually producing four named cultivars in the early 1980s, ‘Golden Anniversary’ (1984) being the most widely known. Having passed the begonia torch on to hybridizer Andrew Snow in the interim, in 1991 ‘Golden Anniversary’ produced a fragrant yellow-flowered mutation, and the Scentiment Series was born.

Pinks and peaches
Two fragrant cultivars of hybridizer Andrew Snow’s Scentiment Series (‘Scentiment Yellow’ and ‘Scentiment Blush’) were released in 1993, and after further breeding using unnamed proprietary seedlings, Snow introduced a further four cultivars in 2002 with improved vigour and flower production. Fast-forward a decade, and Golden State Bulb Growers now grows just three varieties—but they’re fantastic: Pink Blush (B. ‘77KK Blush Pink’ [T]), Just Peachy (B. ‘77WL Peach’ [T]) and Sunrise (B. ‘77KL Sunrise’ [T]).

Germinating begonia seeds
Experienced gardeners might like to try their hand at germinating begonia seeds, which takes some patience and skill, but is the most economical option. Blackmore & Langdon sells perfumed pendulous begonia seeds in mixed colours for £6.50 a packet. Every garden needs a couple of “brag plants” and likewise gardeners need to indulge themselves occasionally; these superb scented begonias, which titillate both the eye and the nose, fit the bill perfectly.

Main image: Sunrise begonia courtesy of Tulip World. Inset image: 'John Smith' courtesy of Blackmore & Langdon



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