Lady Norwood Begonia House and Rose Garden
Begonia House
Begonia House interior and shop
Begonia display

Michael John Wilton
28 August 1953
29 July 2003

This page, and the IPM page, from Mike's web site, is reproduced in his memory

A quiet, wise man

EVERY year, thousands of visitors to the Lady Norwood Begonia House at Wellington Botanic Gardens went home wiser and keener gardeners thanks to the quiet man who chatted to them as they moved among the brilliant displays.
Mike Wilton, who supervised the Begonia House, died on July 29, leaving an immeasurable gap in Wellington's horticultural knowledge banks. He was not only widely read and highly qualified, but was a wise and skilled plaintsman. Over the years, he shared his knowledge many times with Dominion Post garden readers, from mucking out the lily pond to the finer points of raising streptocarpus.
A descendant of the Wilton family after whom the Wellington suburb of Wilton and the renowned Otari Wilton's Bush are named, Mike was a former dux of Horowhenua College and held a degree in biochemistry He never relinquished his thirst for learning: his wide interests included space travel and volcanoes. He had his own web site and designed the Begonia House's first web site.
Early on, Mike started his own nursery and specialised in potted colour before it became the fashion. But though he lavished care on all his plant charges, orchids and begonias were his foremost interests. He was a national orchid judge and a popular guest speaker.
When we last talked, Mike was raising more than 2000 begonia seedlings at home and several of his finest were on display in the Begonia House, including a spectacular picotee double, which he said he'd grow on for another year to "see if it was good enough". Perfection was ever his aim and more often that not, his achievement.
Mike died suddenly while working on a re-vegetation scheme at Maupia on land once held by the iwi from which he was descended.
BETHNEY McLENNAN reproduced from the Dominion Post Saturday August 9 2003


Begonia fuchsioides

Lady Norwood Begonia House in Wellington Botanic Garden has a wide range of plants including, Begonias, Orchids, Bromeliads, Cyclamen, Primula, Impatiens, foliage plants, and a variety of bulbs in permanent plantings and seasonal displays. Victoria amazonica and V. cruziana can be found in the Tropical Water lily Pond along with Nelumbo nucifera, the Sacred Lotus. Integrated pest management, including Biological control is used for pest control.

The Begonia House and its extensions form the backdrop to the Lady Norwood Rose Garden, and were built with the help of substantial funding donations from Sir Charles Norwood, and the Norwood family.
Sir Charles and Lady Norwood were a former Mayor and Mayoress of Wellington. They were enthusiastic advocates of the city parks and gardens, and particularly the Rose Garden area of the Botanic Garden.

The house was built in 1961 without the present Cafe or Lily pond areas. The Cafe was added in 1980. The Tropical Water lily Pond was added in 1989, while the rest of the house underwent extensive renovations, which were completed in 1990.
The Begonia House is more correctly a conservatory because a wide range of tropical and temperate plants are grown and displayed all year round in the house, however during the summer months the spectacular Tuberous Begonias are the dominant display plants and it is from these displays that the house gets its name. Recent efforts have been made to extend the Begonia collection into a wider range of different types.

The house is divided into 2 sections.
Temperate Section.

Tuberous begonias in summer

Seasonal displays of potted flowering and foliage plants make up the main displays in this section. there are also 2 beds of permanent and semi permanent plantings of larger growing plants, including the spectacular huge leafed Damaropsis kingiana. (syn. Ficus kingiana.)

This section is heated to a minimum of 15o C.

Main display plants and collections;

  • Tuberous Begonias, both pot and basket types, with their spectacular large colourful flowers, play the starring role, and dominate the displays during the summer months.
  • Begonias such as cane, rhizomatous, and non tuberous basket types are also grown and many of these flower at other times of the year, particularly winter and spring.
  • Streptocarpus or Cape Primrose hybrids also feature during the warmer months of the year.
    Cyclamen and foliage in winter
  • Cyclamen and Primula obconica provide the main floral display during winter.
  • Cymbidium orchids flower winter and spring.
  • Hippeastrum with their large trumpet blooms are a feature of spring.
  • Lilium follow on in late spring and early summer with large brightly coloured blooms that are often scented.
  • Nerines always catch attention with their often unusual colours in Autumn.
  • Impatiens, Begonias, other than tuberous types, Coleus, and other foliage, provide interest all year round.

The foyer area of the temperate house is where many baskets are displayed and is a popular site for wedding ceremonies.

Tropical Section.
Minimum temperature in this section is set at 20oC.
Most of the plants here are permanently planted.

Main collections include;

Achmea 'Tam Star' one of the Bromeliads in the Tropical section
  • Bromeliads - members of the Pineapple family. There are Tillandsias growing on a "tree" in the enclosure just through the doors into the house and various other genera growing throughout the house.
  • Aroids - members of the Arum lily family, including the Fruit Salad plant Monstera deliciosa and the awesome Titan lily Amorphophallus titanum.
  • Orchids - some permanently planted, but most in temporary potted displays below the epiphyte wall. The main genera displayed here are species and hybrids of Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, and Dendrobium.
    Paphiopedilum or Slipper orchids are usually found in the enclosure between the entrance doors.
  • Aquatic plants in the Tropical Water lily Pond.

The Tropical Waterlily Pond is housed in an extension to the Tropical section, and was opened in November 1989. It was built to grow the giant Amazon water lily species Victoria amazonica and V. cruziana. The pond is heated to between 23o and 27oC depending on time of year, and is stocked with tropical fish, mainly Guppies and Swordtails, to keep algae down. Goldfish in the pond have been dumped there by members of the public! Unfortunately they eat the beneficial tropical fish!

Apart from the Victorias, the pond also home to a white form of the Sacred Lotus, Nelumbo nucifera and several tropical and hardy water lilies of the genus Nymphaea.

Integrated Pest Management.
High toxicity pesticides such as organo-phosphates have not been used for general pest control in the Lady Norwood Begonia House since 1993.
Pest control is now based on Integrated Pest Management. This involves monitoring pest population levels and where necessary, reducing the populations using physical and environmental means, Biological control, or low toxicity chemical or biochemical means.
Biological control methods are used for the pests; Two-spotted mite, White fly, and Mealy bug.

Public Hours  Open every day of the year;

Winter;     April - September (inclusive) 10:00 am - 4:00pm.
Summer;    October - March (During Daylight Saving ) 10:00am - 5:00pm.

Hire of the Begonia House.
The Begonia House Temperate section is available for hire, outside public hours, and is a popular venue for wedding receptions and corporate functions.
All enquiries should be made to "The Treehouse" Visitor Centre in the Botanic Garden.
Phone. 04 499 1400

Wellington Botanic Garden is a section of the Wellington City Council Parks & Gardens business unit.

Original page last modified by Mike Wilton ; Friday, April 25, 2003


Begonia flower