Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
Most begonias need the protection of a greenhouse for the winter, but Begonia grandis, a species from East Asia, is a hardy exception and it will survive outside throughout the year. Unsurprisingly, it is called the hardy begonia.
Winter frosts will kill the foliage to the ground, but the tuberous roots remain unharmed and new growth will emerge in late spring. The upper surface of the leaf is a light green but the underside is tinged with pink and crosshatched with red veins. When backlit by speckled sunlight, the effect is like stained glass.
Typical begonia flowers appear in late summer of early fall. Those of the original species, Begonia grandis, are deep pink, but the cultivar ‘Alba’ has blooms of the palest pink, almost a pure white.
Both can be found under the shade of the pearlbush (Exochorda racemosa) in the southwest corner of the Wild Garden.