Usually, such exchanges are made in person, hand to hand. But one of my hugely successful and prolific passalong plants came by mail, recalling a method favored back in the day – when George Washington would receive plants and seeds from gardeners in America and other countries; a talented gardener, he loved to experiment with unfamiliar species at his Mount Vernon, Virginia, estate.
Well, at my humble country garden in Connecticut, I wanted to see how hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) would do. So, I asked my friend Barbara W. East of Gadsden, Alabama, if she could share some of her considerable stash. Unpacking plants is always fun, but this unpacking was a triumph, as I had failed to find this plant in nurseries here (it's more available now). Triumph blended with surprise as I discovered Barbara had sent some of the white-blooming variety as well as the pink.
Apparently not widely grown in New England, the cold-hardy begonia comes as a surprise to many of my garden visitors. And because this plant is a prolific spreader, as well as a determined migrant, it's all over my space. I've sent plants and cuttings home with gardeners galore. And they continue to pass it on.
Part of this begonia's appeal is its late-summer and fall bloom time. It is the flip side of the Lenten rose's late-winter and spring bloom time. And its beauty goes beyond blooms; the heavily-veined leaves are striking too, particularly when lit by the sun. Moreover, the seed pods that follow blossoms are art themselves, little lanterns that persist for weeks, eventually fading to the color of straw.