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Plant Life: Begonia

Plant Life: Begonia

| Rosie Jeffares-Levitt

As a florist it’s interesting to watch plants go in and out of style, and to observe how the hot house industry responds.

It’s almost impossible to keep up with demand for unusual plants these days. Begonias were once ubiquitous, but no one seems interested in the common wax begonia any more. Yet the genus Begoniaceae with thousands of species is a deep well to draw from! We carry a few lovely ones, including this Angel Wing.

A plant purchase is often a “one and done” kind of thing. Meaning once you’ve got one, you probably won’t be needing another. Commercial growers look for something new to sell; but a dwelling can only house a finite number of plants. Enthusiasts must then get busy with keeping plants healthy, and true green thumbs turn to propagation.

Begonias are an interesting case in point. This is a plant with seeds tinier then spores so hard to grow from seed, but very easy to grow from a cutting. Place a section cut off one plant into water until roots form, then pot it up in soil. Et voilá!

Albert Einstein had a begonia he was particularly fond of. After he died in 1955 his secretary gave away cuttings so his plant would live on. His physicist friends who received them then did the same. Descendants of this particular mother plant exist to this day. Dare I say, it doesn't take a genius! But you need to want to do so.

And somehow we urban dwellers do want to grow and propagate houseplants. In Michael Pollen’s The Botany of Desire, the author looks at our relationship with plants and demonstrates how, in gratifying human desires, plants entice us to help them multiply. Just who, he asks, is domesticating whom? In the case of the begonia, the answer is very clear.

• Rosie, owner Quince Flowers

Botanical Blog

Written By: Rosie Jeffares-Levitt

A collection of blog posts written by one of Toronto's top florists. With two on-going blog series, the first about flowers called Behind The Bloom & the second about plants called Plant Life.