Getting Started with Plants

We are often asked, “How did you get your start with plants?” Our own Don Miller, Begonia expert at Steve’s Leaves, answers this question and tells us about his first experiences with plants:

I have always loved plants, ever since I was a young boy growing up in Southern California. One of the greatest influences was my Aunt Doll who lived in Long Beach. Well, she was not a real Aunt but a friend of the family and lady who was designated that title. Aunt Doll was a short ovate lady with flaming red hair and heart shaped, ruby red lips. She lived in little cottage and had an enchanted garden with water trickling over fountains and a real wishing well. Aunt Doll would take me and my brothers through the garden and name the plants and tell stories about them. And I was the one who would always come home with cuttings or small plants to start in my garden. And one of those plants was a begonia.

Begonias have had a special place in my life. There are so many different kinds and yet their floral structure is so simple. There are more than 1,600 species and thousands of hybrids or cultivars. I have had the opportunity to hybridize or create new begonia varieties at Steve’s Leaves. Usually when you cross two different begonias, the offspring will be highly variable. I have crossed an unnamed rex cultivar; we call it “Silver with Dots” with an unnamed Asian species. This species has the American Begonia Society’s “unidentified species number” or “U number” U489. It is a striking species with large silver leaves with a small olive green spot at the point of petiole (stem) attachment.

Now, we have selected three seedlings, out of more than a hundred, to be named and introduced as new cultivars, which are cultivated varieties. They are ‘Starry Nights’, ‘Moon Lit Snow’ and ‘Blushing Beauty’. ‘Starry Nights’ has won “Best New Introduction” and “People’s Choice Award’ at the Southwest Region Begonia Show in San Antonio this year. Check out these three new varieties on our website. You can enjoy them also.

Don Miller

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Showing 3 comments
  • Phyl Strawbridge

    Do you post photos of your begonias? I have a friend who is a begonia-holic and I’m afraid I’m leaning in that direction.

  • stevesleaves

    Yes, there are lots of photos of our Begonias on our website,

  • Vera Miller

    I am Don’s proud Mother and a lover of begonias too. Thank you, Don for your hard work. Viewers of this website might want to become a member of the American Begonia Society.