Unseen Begonia is set to make its debut at the Ballarat Festival
The new begonia cultivar, bred by the gardening and nursery team at Ballarat Botanic Gardens, has been named after inaugural garden curator George Longley.
The upcoming color of George Longley’s begonia will be revealed at the festival.
Planting new strains of begonia
The Ballarat Botanic Gardens team is no stranger to developing new begonia cultivars, having released two more begonia cultivars in recent years.
The latest begonia to be launched is the George Longley begonia. It was bred from two cultivars in the Ballarat Botanic Gardens collection by Erin Brennan and Sherry Blood. “Native” cultivars have been selected for specific flower traits.
Two other begonias previously bred within the gardens include the ‘Peter Marquand’ begonia, named after recently retired landscaper Peter Marquand, and the ‘Lady B’ begonia, named after Irene and Sherry – both of whose last names begin with the letter ‘B’.
Ballarat City Parks and Nursery manager Donna Thomas said the practice of breeding begonias in gardens arose out of curiosity, and because importing plants was becoming increasingly difficult.
“Traditionally, we imported begonias from the UK,” she said.
“However, we didn’t notice a lot of the variety we were looking for — such as unique colors, flower shapes, or scents that we don’t currently have in the collection.”
Trying to breed their own begonias was the next logical step for Ms Thomas and her team, which also has some added bonuses.
“Breeding our own begonias also reduces the risk of accidentally bringing in pests – it protects our existing collection and enriches the unique Ballarat identity within the collection,” Ms Thomas said.
Honoring the first garden curator
Ms Thomas and her team chose to name their newest begonia after George Longley because they wanted to honor the legacy George left behind after 41 years as curator at the Ballarat Botanic Gardens.
“Although George did not design the gardens, he carried out the original design of the gardens, most of which was from the original plan,” Ms Thomas said.
“He oversaw the construction of the original fern and statue pavilion, the arrival of the Stoddard marble statues, he would have planted the Avenue Giant Redwood, and much of the track work you see today would have been done by George.
“George is all around us in the gardens.”
Ballarat City Councilor Samantha McIntosh said naming a new begonia after George Longley was a great way to honor his legacy.
“The Ballarat Botanic Gardens have been a source of pride for the people of Ballarat since their establishment in 1858. It is right that we honor George Longley for his significant contributions to the gardens,” she said.
“I’m very much looking forward to unveiling the ‘George Longley’ begonia at this year’s Ballarat Begonia Festival and I know the community will be very keen to see what color it turns out.”
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