There are about nine hundred different species of Begonia but the only one we ever grow that’s considered hardy outside is the very late flowering Begonia grandis. Now, there’s a new series of begonias which, while not being 100% hardy outside in our gardens, are giving B. grandis a run for its money. And while we have to wait till autumn for the flowers of B. grandis to open, the Garden Angels™ begonias have impressive foliage all summer.
Two varieties in the series are now available, and both make large plants that soon make an impact. Their foliage is their main appeal, although they also flower in August and September. Both have leaves rather like those of a maple with a bold, jagged shape and spectacular colouring.
'Garden Angel Plum' (above) has dark metallic blue-black veined leaves overlaid with a plum to pink tones; it’s the larger of the two and reaches about 60cm (2ft) high and 45cm (18in) across. The red flowers are held above the leaves. 'Garden Angel Silver' (below) is a little smaller, its bright silver leaves feature pewter green veins and its flowers are pink. It’s a little wider than 'Garden Angel Plum', reaching about 45cm (18in) high and 60cm (2ft) wide.
So how hardy are they, exactly? They were developed in Oregon and the breeder says that they will tolerate -18ºC (-0.4ºF).
Frankly, this seems optimistic. My advice comes in two parts. Either grow them as specimens in large containers, in which case in the winter you’ll only need to move the pot into a sheltered place or a cold greenhouse. Alternatively, if you plant them in the open ground, choose a warm site with rich but well-drained soil and cover them with a deep mulch once the frost has hit the leaves.
It will be interesting to see exactly how hardy they turn out to be. But even just for one summer that foliage looks superb.
You can order a collection of Garden Angels begonias from Thompson & Morgan.
** Please note the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author and are not necessarily those of the RHS **