A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Begonia grandis ‘Alba’ (Hardy Begonia cultivar)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

Sometimes a previous post provides just the right inspiration for a new one. This week, the chosen plant is one that I wrote about at this time last year. And it’s still worthy of being highlighted again.plant

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 cross-hatched with red veins. When backlit by speckled sunlight, the effect is like that of stained glass.close-up-2

Typical begonia flowers appear in late summer or early fall. Those of the original species, Begonia grandis, are deep pink, but the cultivar, ‘Alba,’ has blooms of the palest pink, an almost pure white. Both can be found under the shade of the pearlbush (Exochorda racemosa) in the southwest corner of the Wild Garden. See it here in the left foreground, looking south.setting

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