The Jakarta Post
Begonias, those waxy, petalled, succulent plants found in greenhouses or bright bathroom corners are, surprisingly, native to Indonesia.
Hidden in the jungle shadows of Maluku, Sulawesi, Java, Kalimantan, Bali and most other islands of the archipelago, begonias take root in dappled light and grow into a myriad of complex forms, each adapted over eons to their particular environment, explains 26-year-old Ketut Restika.
Ketut is a begonia hobbyist and staffer at the Bedugul Botanical Gardens in Bali's central highlands and lakes district.
On duty last Sunday in the botanical garden's begonia house while his senior, Made Ardaka, was trekking the jungles of East Halmahera's national park, Aketejawe in Ternate, in search of new and rare begonia species, Ketut introduces visitors to the more than 290 varieties of the plant housed in the gardens.
'We have here one of the greatest ranges of begonia species in the world,' says Ketut, gently raising plastic from a pair of tiny leaves. 'These are begonia holosericea from Ternate in North Maluku, the rarest begonias we have here. This is the first time we have grown them here,' says Ketut of the pair of freshly rooted leaves that will expand the begonia house's collection to 294 specimens.
Cool breezes dance through the botanical garden's begonia house, inviting dozens of guests daily to discover these plants, some with spiral form variegated leaves, others dressed in red velvet leaves and all promising an abundance of flowers within the next couple months.
City dwellers Dadang and his wife, Enok, make the hour's drive from Bali's capital Denpasar to Bedugul's begonia house regularly. Like hundreds of other families, they come for the cool climate and an opportunity to let their children run barefoot in the grass, rest in the shade of giant trees and breathe fresh mountain air.
'We come to the gardens, and the begonia house, to see the beautiful flowers and the gardens. Here it is so fresh and cool after the city,' says Dadang.
Enok echoes his words. 'Coming here we feel refreshed. The gardens are a change from the city,' she says, enjoying the calm of the begonia house.
Spread over several hectares, the Bedugul Botanical Gardens draws huge crowds every weekend. Near the entrance to the gardens teens test their courage on a series of flying fox treetop ropes at the Bali Treetop Adventure Park while their parents unpack picnic lunches and relax in the shade. Others bring their bicycles and pedal their way around the gardens discovering vistas of the adjacent lakes and the spectacular mountains that jut into the sky.
These botanical gardens are laid out with bamboo forests containing a rich diversity of bamboo types, the palm gallery where many different palms are growing, the fir tree zones that are alive with the crisp wintry aroma of snow country climates and acres and acres of grassland where children play, and the begonia house that showcases a genus massive in its variety.
Just outside the doors of the begonia house, the gardens offer up the unexpected ' a plant nursery that has hundreds of unusual seedlings for sale, so families can take a little bit of the garden's peaceful green home with them.
' Photos By J.B. Djwan
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