What’s the furthest you would travel to see a plant? Well, how about 4500 miles! Yes, that’s right, I flew all the way to China to see the largest plantation of Begonia BIG. And here’s the story behind my trip!
I have admired the breeding company Benary for a long time. They have brought some fantastic plants to market, plants that perform in climates all around the world. One of their specialties is Begonia, and Their army of breeders have been working behind-the-scenes for many years on something very special. They’ve been busy mixing up the breeders mixing bowl, and the result was Begonia Big, released to coincide with Benary’s 100 year anniversary too.
In terms of hard-working plants, this really is a champion. For home gardeners and landscapers alike, planting less plants to cover more ground makes total sense.
The growers at the Sunflower Theme Park had been searching for a plant that would give that wow factor in front of their premium hotel. Other plants, or even other Begonia, just couldn’t come close to the vigour and vibrancy of Begonia Big.
This amazing invention of a theme park based around plants has finally become a reality, thanks to a group of keen Chinese horticulturists. Just south of Guangzhou, the Sunflower Theme Park opened its doors to the public 17 years ago and can attract 5000 visitors per day!
As most Chinese homes are only apartments with a small balcony, the chance to spend time in these large grounds of plants is a dream day out for many natives. Selfies abound, with every visitor keen to share the experience with their friends on the social media platform, WeChat.
As a Western visitor, I really was in a minority. In fact, I was the only one! Not only was I greeted by a medley of confused faces, but schoolchildren were also particularly excited and would run up to me in groups, asking me “what is your name?”, “where are you from?” and being surprised when I replied in my single learnt mandarin phrase 听不懂 (I don’t understand)..
I was lucky enough to spend some time with the Marketing Manager, Trevor and the Grower, Mr Gong. We chatted about the planting and I asked him a few questions about why they had chosen this particular Begonia, out of all that are available worldwide:
What is special about Begonia Big, and where did you first find out about it?
Out grower has been to Europe, and to Benary, to explore their begonia world. It was really important to him to have a plant that was multi branching and could fill a landscaped area quickly and easily. It was all about impact too, so that’s why he chose the red variety from the series.
How many plants of Begonia Big have you planted into the park here?
We have 60,000 plants situated in front of our flagship hotel. They are into planted with the beautiful golden form of Melaleuca bracteata.
Where do you grow the plants, and how long does it take from young plant arrival to planting out?
We have a large greenhouse complex on site, but still need to use the space wisely. The quick growth of Begonia Big means it doesn’t need long inside until it’s planted out into the final position!
How long does the display last for?
Six whole months, without any pause!
What’s the climate like here, and how does the plant perform for you?
VERY changeable, much like England I’m sure! But, we do have more heat, sometimes it’s 35C and there can be typhoons and such. And from spring to early summer, it can be surprisingly cold at times. Begonia Big survives through all those seasons!
You’re not only using Begonia Big in front of the hotel, you’re also using it in hanging baskets as well? They look really cool.
That’s right. We are using a sister line from Begonia Big in our giant hanging baskets. We find that the branching habit is excellent for borders, but when you use it in baskets it creates a beautiful trailing affected.
Will you be using Begonia Big next year?
Can people grow Begonia Big at home in China?
Unfortunately not. As you know, most people only have an apartment. This is why we feel it’s important to provide such beautiful public gardens, so people can really experience being around nature, as they don’t get to do that at home!
I am extremely honoured to be an ambassador for Begonia Big. This is the first plant that I will be representing, and I can’t wait to work on lots of interesting projects. There will also be plenty of ways you can interact with me and the plant, perhaps getting hold of some for your own garden! Stay tuned for more information..
The Sunflower Theme Park in Guangzhou can be easily reached from the Guangzhou city, by tube or taxi. It is open every day of the year, and there’s always something amazing to see!
Here’s an overview of some of the other fantastic areas in this plant theme park- filmed with my brand new camera glasses from Smartech: