When the St Patrick's Day fires swept through Scotts Creek almost five years ago, retired dairy farmer Clarrie Matthews lost everything except his house.
Among the razed sheds, fences and machinery, the loss of 400 vibrant begonia plants he'd lovingly grown and tended to hurt the most.
He wasn't sure if he could continue the hobby but some begonia cuttings from his friends kick-started his new collection.
"I almost thought can I get going or not," Mr Matthews said. "If it wasn't for my friends in New Zealand I wouldn't have."
He moved to Allansford and now has 600 plants, including some of the only ones of their kind in Australia, imported from New Zealand.
"Losing them was a shocking thing but what it did allow me to do was to select top ones and have quality ones, not have any secondary ones," he said. "I tried to get the best I could. I thought if I'm going to start from scratch I may as well start with something good."
He went to great lengths to import the blooms which he said not many people did.
"Importing them from England or New Zealand or anywhere is a big job, it's expensive, time consuming and frustrating. The begonias go into the government department to make sure there's no disease on them and then when they're happy with them about three months later they release them. That's how I got going."
He said growing begonias had "become an obsession" and people didn't realise they grew outside Ballarat, known for its annual begonia festival.
"A friend from Timboon gave me two," he said. "I didn't have a clue what to do with them. They survived and I gradually got more. I got 20 and thought 'that's it' but no it doesn't stop there."
While pointing out a few of this season's highlights he said it was difficult to pinpoint his most treasured flower. "There's not many here that I don't like so it's hard to say which ones are my favourite," he said.
The Victorian Begonia Society member will take 200 plants to sell at the Ballarat Begonia Festival on the March long weekend.
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