Born in 1872 in England, Theodore Payne was trained in the nursery and seed business at J. Cheal & Sons Company and gained
familiarity with California native plants at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. In 1893, Payne immigrated to the United States
and became the head gardener at the ranch of Madame Helena Modjeska in Santiago Canyon, Orange County, California. In 1896,
Payne left the ranch and was employed as flower seedsman for the Germain Fruit and Seed Company in Los Angeles. Payne was
responsible for Germain’s flower, tree, and palm seed department; his duties included preparing the annual catalog of seed
In 1903, Payne purchased property at 440 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, and started his own nursery business with a special focus
on California native plants and wildflowers, where he produced numerous plant and seed catalogs. Payne became concerned with
the loss of native habitat due to housing developments and began to campaign to preserve California native plants. He developed
a five acre native plant garden in Los Angeles, assisted Susanna Bixby Bryant with the creation of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic
Garden (now California Botanic Garden) in Orange County, and was involved in the development of a native plant section of
Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge.
Payne died in Glendale, California in 1963.