NZ: Lifelong love of begonias blooms for Theo Payne

What started out as a schoolboy hobby has become a lifelong passion for almost 90-year-old Theo Payne. Theo's love of begonias started in Wairoa in 1965, when he spotted some in a glasshouse. "Over the years I took an interest. I almost studied horticulture, but carried this on as a hobby," he says.

As well as developing two of his own plants which he crossbred from seeds, named and registered, the former panel-beater and spray painter has between 200 and 300 potted begonias at his Green-meadows East property.

His collection is now past its peak for the year, which means there's a lot of work to be done in the coming weeks. Each plant, which has been hand pollinated, has its head cut off after flowering has finished. Watering is then held off over the following three weeks. "In the fourth week the leaf has turned yellow so has stopped growing. They are then cut off and left in their pots, with no water 'til May," Theo says.

Theo says begonia hybrids were originally found in Bolivia in the 1800s, with no blue plants ever being grown. "I tried for over 50 years. They are also mostly unscented, but I've managed to get a scented variety in the last five years." Theo has given plenty of seedlings away over the years and now prefers growing begonias from propagation.

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