This is a dream I, Michael Ludwig, never foresaw when I started joining plant societies in 1976. A world full of research materials, past and present, of Begonias and other plants that I love and grow, at my finger tips. I've inherited lifetimes of work from some of the greatest minds to study begonias and I look forward to adding my own studies as well and sharing these treasurers with others.
Carrie Karegeannes retired as the American Begonia Society's Nomenclature Director and was moving on to other activities in her life. She had researched and studied begonias for years and had established quite a reputation for herself and her study throughout the world. Carrie wanted her years of research material to be safe, treasured and the work continued. She knew that institutions were often at the whim of their directors or funding and the materials could suddenly be discarded. Her long time friend and research companion, Thelma O'Reilly suggested that perhaps I, Michael Ludwig, would be a good choice to safeguard and use her materials. I'd been in the ABS for about 25 years, enjoyed growing, the study and research of begonias and still had a few years to continue the work.
In the spring of 2002, I received a letter that changed my life. Carrie had chosen me to receive her life work. After accepting her offer, I would arrive home after work to find a stack of boxes, full of treasures sitting at my door, delivered from the other side of the country. This continued for months and it was like Christmas as I opened each box, dozens of them, and reviewed the amazing world they contained. All the material was neatly and carefully packed. The material was separated according to its form; file folders, cards, herbarium specimens, books, slides and each were alphabetized. I was amazed at the history and the people involved in this study and correspondence. Begonia researchers from around the world, names I'd seen and read about for years. My father died Sept of 2002 and I would lose myself in this "Begonia World". It also helped when my Begonia mentors and dear friends Bob Ammerman, November 2003; Margaret (Marge) Lee, January 2004 and Mabel Corwin, May 2004 each passed away. They had played an important role in my life and begonia journey. Paul and Ann Lee, Marge Lee's son and daughter -in- law, passed her begonia treasures onto me, which I added to this growing world.
I'd talked to Rudolf Ziesenhenne about my activities during my visits to Santa Barbara and his nursery. During a visit in the spring of 2005, he was joking about needing a semi- truck to take all his research materials out of the house when he died. He then took me upstairs in his home to a room full of cabinets, shelves, papers and desk; he pointed to two floor - to- ceiling bookcases and said that I might as well start now! I went into shock. I filled my van that day with his notebooks and books that filled those shelves. Many of them were falling apart from age. I took them home and put them in new binders to preserve these, new to me treasures. Rudy passed away in October 2005. Since his death, his sons, Rudolf H. (Skee) and Fred, continued with his vision and I made many trips to Santa Barbara in 2006 and 2007 to pick up more of Rudy's life work, although never in a semi-truck, and added it to this ever enriching world.
I had a vision of a wonderful place in which I could share this fascinating world, so in the fall of 2005 I started remodeling the back 24' x 16' section of my garage. On January 28, 2006, I opened the KOLZ Begonia Research Center (Karegeannes; O'Reilly; Ludwig, Lee; Ziesenhenne) to the Margaret Lee Branch of the American Begonia Society and offered it as their unofficial home. They were amazed and thrilled to explore what KOLZ had to offer and in true Marge Lee Branch fashion, we toasted the event with champagne. Later that day it also hosted the Mabel Corwin Branch's officers meeting. What a Grand Opening! KOLZ continues to host the Marge Lee Branch for meetings. Besides the research material, KOLZ also contains scrapbooks from the Rudolf Ziesenhenne/Santa Barbara Branch; Margaret Lee Branch history; Margaret Lee and Rudolf Ziesenhenne awards and trophies and the library for the Mabel Corwin Branch.
KOLZ Begonia Research Center continues to evolve and grow with donations. Thelma O'Reilly, a life long mentor, continues to share and donate her material to me and the Center. Other begonia lovers are leaving their collections to this valuable resource. At the February 2007 meeting of the Margaret Lee Branch, they voted to help me with this project and made a donation to KOLZ to help continue its mission. In September 2007, I gave a seminar at the American Begonia Society's National Convention, on the Seed Fund and KOLZ , which was well received by that late night audience. This led to donations by the Santa Clara Valley and Sacramento Branches, when members took news of my activities to their branches. After speaking to the Westchester Branch of the ABS, Rudolf H. (Skee) Ziesenhenne came up to me with his wife Virginia, and said he had a donation to help, their generosity was overwhelming. Dr. Judith Taylor, author of Tangible Memories: Californians and Their Gardens 1800-1950 came from San Francisco to do research on begonia hybridizers. Her article will appear in 2 issues of Pacific Horticulture in 2009, and a book on hybridizing with a chapter on begonia will be published in the future. Dr. Taylor brought a copy of her book for me and made a donation to KOLZ. See all their names at DONORS . Thank you to all.
I have many dreams and visions for this priceless resource and expect others to suggest and help me with projects. This website offers me to a place to host the websites for the San Diego Branches of the American Begonia Society . I'm working on these sites but you can get to them by clicking on the photos of their namesakes at the bottom of any page. The KOLZ Center is available for visits and use by others. I am inventorying this wealth of materials of several lifetimes into a database. I plan to offer seminars and study/research conferences both at KOLZ Center and off site. I continue to gather and receive materials, try to complete newsletter collections and other historical literature and make more herbarium specimens. The ongoing mission of the KOLZ Begonia Research Center is to preserve the materials that were passed on, gather new materials and make it available to others.