Winter bloom

Begonia flower

This is what I love about gardening, there is always something new and exciting to learn! I got this plant expecting it to perform like the tuberous begonias I'm used to. The latter are rightfully called the roses of the shade because of their large, full and lush flowers that last and last... I didn't know why this particular plant didn't bloom over the summer, so I blamed my predicament on the heavy soil or diminished sun exposure and hoped to see flowers next year in a different location.

Snow patterns

Winter landscape

Who said you can't have a beautiful garden in winter? Oh, I did? Never mind, please enjoy this beautiful light and shadow play in white and brown.

It turns out this is not a tuberous begonia, but a rhizomatous begonia. What's the difference? The master gardener will of course point out that the nomenclature variance all but screams the former grow from tubers and the latter grow from rhizomes, but these are the kind of details a starry eyed green thumb tends to overlook. They look the same, they grow the same, but tuberous begonias love the warm temperature range, which is why they bloom in summer and go dormant in winter, while rhizomatous begonias love the cool temperature range, which is why they rest in summer and bloom in winter. What an extraordinary strike of luck that I decided to pot it and bring it indoors at the last minute, right before the first killing frost!

Rhizomatous begonias are tropical plants, like cyclamens, and need the same climate zones, ten and above, to thrive, but unlike the cyclamens, begonias use the summer and fall for active growth; this explains why my unfussy and easy to grow plant displayed stunning black foliage amidst the burgundy and amber coral bells from May till October.

Their flowers appear in late winter and early spring, in delicate sprays, rosy and speckled with red dots, and the blossoms bear no resemblance to those of their showy summer cousins'.

Just in case you decide to add this pretty plant to your winter garden, a few things about its likes and dislikes: only water when the soil dries up, plant in a shallow pot, preferably a clay one, keep foliage away from direct sunshine, but provide bright indirect light. It likes cool temperatures, between sixty and seventy degrees, and slows its growth at the beginning of winter, when feeding is not recommended. During the growing season it benefits from a good all purpose fertilizer.

I think this variety is called "Cleopatra", but I could be mistaken, there are so many black leaved begonias! They can be propagated just like irises and bleeding hearts, by breaking off and replanting small pieces of their rhizomes when they surface and start growing new foliage.


Long shadows

Long shadows

The snow showers gave way to a bright and cheerful winter sun, in as much as winter sun can be cheerful.

The long shadows cast on the snow reminded me that my clock/sun path project is still in its planning stage. Winter would have been a perfect opportunity to test whether the sun paths work correctly, but the rough prototype is made of cardboard and it wouldn't withstand precipitation and variations in temperature.

In the absence of said device, I'm left staring at the long January shadows and acknowledging that the sun is moving lower on the firmament at this time of year, as expected.

In winter, a periwinkle blue sky during the day and brilliant hues of pink, orange and purple on the horizon at dusk usually indicate nippy temperatures, so I'm very happy to admire the beauty of nature through the window.

Fortunately the thick blanket of snow will protect the plants and provide plentiful water to help them establish their roots. There is always a silver lining...

Ugh, it's still January! I don't trust that groundhog: it sees its shadow, it doesn't see its shadow, it goes back to its burrow anyway.

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