Erica’s iconic blooms

IT has taken 12 years of trial and error to get Erica’s iconic begonias to the spectacular blooms they are today, and grower Martin Farrugia is still learning.

“To grow a plant, you have to put yourself number two, like raising a child,” Mr Farrugia said.

“Then you get a feel for nursing something.”

In excess of 1000 plants were displayed at this year’s Erica Begonia Festival and were the result of six months’ of cultivation using a “special recipe” of potting mix, four kinds of fertiliser and stringent maintenance.

But the success of the festival can be traced further back, to a childhood excursion to a similar display.

“I went to the Melbourne Flower Show and I was hooked,” Mr Farrugia said.

“So I started growing plants when I was nine and I was buying plants from interstate when I was 12.”

Mr Farrugia hopes his display will inspire the same love of gardening in youngsters, giving them what he described as a “different outlook on life”.

“People who grow begonias are calmer, kinder; they’re just a different breed,” he said.

Mr Farrugia’s tips for growers is to keep begonias in a shaded and humid area, protected from the wind.

“You can’t give them too much water,” he said.