Hardy BegoniaPronunciation: bi-GON-e-ahFamily...

PLANT NOTEBOOK

November 30, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher

Hardy Begonia

Pronunciation: bi-GON-e-ah

Family: Bergoniaceae (Begonia)

Origin: Malay, China, Japan

Class: Perennial

Display period: Late summer

Height: 2 feet

Environment: Partial shade

It was in the garden of an acquaintance that I first saw a hardy begonia.

I have grown many of the indoor kinds over the years as well as the common annual-type wax or semperflorens begonias. So the discovery of the one hardy species in the genus (if mulched and sited protectively it will survive the winter outdoors in as cold a climate as New York City), and a gift of a few plants for my own garden made the day a red-letter one for me.

Acquire a few plants and you will soon have them by the dozens. The hardy begonia is a prolific self-sower, casting with seeming abandon bulblets which root on their own.

The Evans begonia, as the hardy begonia is also popularly called, reminds me of the cane-type Angel-wing begonia. The two plants bear the same sort of gracefully drooping rose-pink flowers, and their elongated leaves, trimmed in red, are similar too.

The showy nature of the hardy begonia and its time of display -- late in the season when most other flowers are winding down -- give the plants special appeal.

In their dazzling new book, "Bold Romantic Gardens," with Susan Rademacher Frey, (Acropolis Books Ltd, $59.95), Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden include the hardy begonia in their glossary of 63 favorite plants. As associates in the Baltimore-Washington landscape design firm bearing their names, the men often use the species in their renowned work.

Mr. Oehme, a Towson resident, notes that the hardy begonia naturalizes well, with a few plants spreading to fill in an area completely. He numbers it among his top choices in ground covers for a semi-shaded place. It makes a "big statement," he says, while taking care of itself. Plants rarely, if ever, need staking, fertilizing or spraying.

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