I AM KEEPING MY EYE ON BEGONIA ‘BELLFIRE,’ A MILDER-MANNERED COUSIN of ‘Bonfire,’ whom we all agree is delightful, but whose hot-orange flowers can be a bit too insistent for some designs. With coral flowers and reddish-olive foliage, my two little plants of ‘Bellfire’ (above) are so far, so good. Shall we review a few really good begonias to believe in?
‘Dragon Wing Red’ (above) was my first love, with its red flowers and robust (that’s an understatement) habit, reaching shrubby proportion. Remember him? He also comes in pink, but this year, sadly, there were none to be found in my garden-center travels.
Then came the B. boliviensis selection called ‘Bonfire,’ a tuberous species that appeared on the market a year or two ago, often as hanging baskets. I indulged, and then I worried I’d overdone it, but my impulse-shopping was vindicated: Not only was it a great plant, but it happily overwintered, dormant, in my basement. Now he’s a giant (above). There’s just that thing about having to like orange…
And then, this year, came ‘Bellfire’ (top and bottom photos) a supposedly more upright (to 24 inches) and genteel creature, a first cousin of ‘Bonfire’ and from the same New Zealand breeders. My plants are still so small I don’t have much to show or photograph, but as I say, all the signs are encouraging. They’re a little floppy yet due to their youth and the endless rain we’ve suffered. This is one I’d snap up at the midsummer sales and try to carry over, if you can find it, a potential investment plant like ‘Bonfire’ turned out to be.
What begonia currently has your attention, and if you’ve known it for awhile, do you have any tips to share about making it a permanent member of the family? Do tell.