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Sacramento hosts national begonia convention

These are examples from the begonia collection of Wendy Corby, chair of the upcoming show. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Hundreds of rare plants available to the public in Sept. 7 sale

It’s a begonia lover’s dream: Hundreds of plants and dozens of experts all in one place.

And next week, that place is Sacramento.

For the first time in four decades, Sacramento will host the American Begonia Society’s national convention, to be held next week at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Northeast. A gigantic plant sale and huge judged show will be open free to the public next Saturday, Sept. 7.

Due to the convention, the Joan Coulat Chapter’s annual Sacramento show and sale will not be held that weekend at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center. Instead, make plans to go to the Crowne Plaza and take your pick from the spectacular assortment of sale plants available as well as admire the award-winning specimens in the national show.

Sacramento hasn’t hosted the national convention since 1978. A lot has happened in the begonia world, including the discovery of new species and the hybridization of thousands more.

“We’ll have speakers from Australia, China, Indonesia,” said show chair Wendy Corby, a longtime Sacramento begonia grower. “People will find out what’s going on with begonias worldwide.”

Two more speakers from China were scheduled to appear at the convention, but were denied visas, she noted.

Begonias have fans everywhere because there are so many different kinds, Corby explained. With more than 1,800 species, it ranks among the largest and most diverse plant families on Earth.

California is a major begonia-growing state. “We have more branches of the (American) Begonia Society in California than any other state,” Corby said. “Texas is second. The reason they’re so popular here is we can grow them outdoors year round. Otherwise, you have to have a greenhouse or grow them indoors. Begonias just love it here.”

Begonias come in a wide range of species such as this angel wing variety
from Wendy Corby's collection.
Show organizers brought in top-class plants from major nurseries and hybridizers for the sale. That includes 300 plants from Kartuz Greenhouse in Vista and 800 from Warren’s Nursery in Los Osos. Dozens of hard-to-find miniature terrarium begonias will be available. Local growers also donated hundreds of their own propagated plants

For the public, show and sale hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7. Crowne Plaza Hotel Sacramento Northeast is located at 5321 Date Ave., Sacramento, just off Interstate 80 at Madison Avenue.

Co-hosted by the Sacramento and San Francisco chapters, the convention starts Monday with tours, seminars and speakers each day through Sept. 7. Among the featured speakers are Ross Bolwell, who presents “Begonia Breeding the Aussie Way,” and China’s Wen-Ke Dong, who will tell how “All Roads Lead to Begonia.” Both will be part of Wednesday evening’s programs. Convention registration is needed to attend seminars and tours.

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For week of March 3:

* Celebrate the city flower! Catch the 100th Sacramento Camellia Show 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3, at the Scottish Rite Center, 6151 H St., Sacramento. Admission is free.

* Between showers, pick up fallen camellia blooms; that helps cut down on the spread of blossom blight that prematurely browns petals.

* Feed camellias after they bloom with fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

* Camellias need little pruning. Remove dead wood and shape, if necessary.

* Tread lightly or not at all on wet ground; it compacts soil.

* Avoid digging in wet soil, too; wait until it clumps in your hand but doesn’t feel squishy.

* Note spots in your garden that stay wet after storms; improve drainage with the addition of organic matter such as compost.

* Keep an eye out for leaning trunks or ground disturbances around a tree’s base, a sign of shifting roots in the wet soil.

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* If aphids are attracted to new growth, knock them off with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap. To make your own “bug soap,” use two tablespoons liquid soap – not detergent – to one quart water in a spray bottle. Shake it up before use. Among the liquid soaps that seem most effective are Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soaps; try the peppermint scent.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Make plans for your summer garden. Once the soil is ready, start adding amendments such as compost.

* Indoors, start seeds for summer favorites such as tomatoes, peppers and squash as well as summer flowers.

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