Established in 1953, the Ballarat Begonia Festival is an innovative garden-based horticultural event that showcases Ballarat’s natural assets including its unique and rare collections of begonias. For 10 months of the year, the City of Ballarat’s horticultural team has grown and nurtured thousands of begonias in over 500 varieties. The impressive collection is the rarest in the Southern hemisphere. The annual event is held in March and represents an authentic part of Ballarat’s story. It is one of Ballarat’s largest events drawing thousands of visitors to the city.
Begonias have been synonymous with Ballarat since the late 1800’s and to this day we still celebrate this magnificent genus each March with the Ballarat Begonia Festival.
Begonia flower forms vary significantly and therefore a typical Begonia flower can be difficult to describe. The fimbriata cultivars could appear to be giant carnations, but others resemble large camellias or roses. Their colours range from white, yellow, orange, pink and red, there is no blue. Whilst the most common single colour in our Begonia collection is pink, followed by orange, many cultivars such as the picotees have multiple colours on each petal.
Our collection in Ballarat is propagated by basal cuttings taken in November to December. These cuttings will produce a mini tuber at the end of its first growing season and will be of display size standard in its second season.
Of all the beautiful floral attributes Begonias exhibit, it’s often their scent that is most intriguing. Whilst most Begonias are non-scented, our collection contains just three scented varieties including upright varieties John Smith and Dawn Song and the cascade variety Yellow Sweetie. Their scent is anything but floral, often referred to as resembling tropical fruit juice or sweet citrus.
Our Tuberous Collection consists of 207 varieties of upright Begonias and 38 of the cascade or weeping form, most effectively displayed in hanging baskets. In excess of 2300 tuberous begonia plants are grown each year with approximately one third of those on display in the conservatory at any one time. The remainder serve as replacements to keep the Begonia Display fresh, as Tuberous Begonias do not like the hot, humid environment of the Conservatory.
The Ballarat Botanical Gardens have been growing Begonias since the late 1890s.
Begonias are grown by the Ballarat Botanical Garden horticultural team at our nursery here in the gardens.
We grow over 240 different tuberous Begonias and 300+ unique non-tuberous Begonias.
The Begonias require some form of attention for 10 months of the year, to have them on display for approximately 4 to 6 weeks – but we think they are worth it.
In total, we grow over 3,000 Begonias in pots!
Begonias have male and female flowers. Every day during the Begonia Display, we remove the new ‘single’ female flower, allowing the plant to put all its energy into the much larger and ‘showier’ male flowers.
Every large flower is supported by a wire to prevent the weight of the flower from snapping off.
The original ‘wild’ Begonias, which all the tuberous Begonias were bred from, are only 3cm in diameter. Some Begonias can grow very large, we have grown one with a diameter of 24cm!
Every Begonia pit in the conservatory and nursery is hand watered. It’s labour of love.
Don’t miss your chance to see this fabulous festival. This tour will book out very quickly on each of the 3 days.