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Down the Garden Path
Fall 2013

American Begonia Society/Southwest Region Convention
By Nelda Moore, Austin Begonia Society

The convention was planned by Doug Byrom, Nelda Moore, Jim and Joan Estes, Rainee Freeman, and Lynn Sissney, when no one stepped up to host this event in '13, a rather lucky number for the local society. Doug Byrom, president of the local branch and treasurer for the Southwest Region, offered the May 29-June 1 dates because the African Violet National Convention was in the Renaissance Hotel.

The Austin Area Branch selected the Holiday Inn on Town Lake for the beautiful setting with the busy hospitality rooms facing the skyline of Austin. It was here that a Silent Auction was held when it departed the Lantana Room. It also served as the registration headquarters to acquire a goody bag, which Nelda Moore purchased from the Austin Area Garden Council Gift Shop. It was a place where Ken Fuchs could grab a refreshing soda and a quick sandwich before he worked diligently to photograph all of the activities for the great DVD that he was asked to create when the Californian decided to stay at home at the last minute.

The tours were excellent with Bus Captain Rainee Freeman called the Countess for keeping everyone on board and through Fredericksburg, the Great Outdoors, the Natural Gardener, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Wildseed Farm, and the African Violet Sale and Show. The Duck Tour of Lady Bird Lake around the mansions on the hill really fascinated and probably scared some attendees, but the whole of this became memorable.

Austin Begonia Society members Lynn Sissney and Valerie Morris are checking out the begonias.


The magnificent Plant Show had 117 entries and 16 exhibitors. Doug Byrom won the Millie and Ed Thompson Showing is Sharing Award for his 40 wonderful plants, that usually received 95 points from the experienced judges. Doug transported these plants from Smithville. Begonia 'Millie Thompson' won Best in Show for Leora Henthorne, who has been a speaker for the local branch, and also won Sweepstakes with nine blue ribbons. Other local members who won were Tom Keepin with B. floccifera and B. 'Dancing Girl' and Carol Orozco with B. foliosa (a species), B. 'Deja Thoris' and a Rex Cultorum.

The plant sale was orderly, amazing, and full of treasures. Entrance was determined by the number on the ticket drawn in the hospitality room.

Among the distinguished speakers were Dr. Rekha Morris, who has studied species in India and Mexico, Dr. Mark Tebbitt, a successful author and teacher who has recently travelled to Bolivia, where he found B. cinnabarina and B. micranthera growing in the wild in cracks in a desert landscape,and Dan Heims, president of Terra Nova Nurseries in Canby, Oregon, where he has created new plants such as begonias with leathery leaves to tolerate the climate change that the world is experiencing. He sold one of his begonias for $120 at auction. He has also developed a line of Heuchera (HOY-ker-uh) better known as Coral Bells, which can be used as companion plants for the shade garden. He has named them Peach Crisp, Sugar Plum, and Root Beer. Dan has appeared on television in the USA and Britain and has written for newspapers and magazines. National Director Wanda Macnair and Leora provided the informative session for creating terrariums, that were sold at auction.

Mike Flaherty served as Master of Ceremonies during the Awards Banquet with tables decorated with begonias and tiny Texas boots and red, white. and blue stars.Mike is humorous, charming, and informative especially when he compared the Austin landmarks to those in California.

Freda Holley, a well-known hybridizer belonging to this branch, won the prestigious Alfred D. Robinson Medal of Honor for her hybrid B. "Holley's Beauty". Mark Tebbitt won the Rudolf Ziesenhenne Award for written contributions on begonias that are both excellent in design and content and that contribute to knowledge and appreciation of begonias. Valerie Morris won the Marge Lee Award for promoting spiritual value, harmony and good will among members.

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Austin TX 78746