Saturday, July 27, 2013

Richea Dracophylla

This week, I've been picking Richea Dracophylla.  They are an Australian native flower, endemic to Tasmania, although many people say they've never seen them before.  It's such a pity that we are unaware of the natural beauty that occurs in our own part of the world.  These flowers are long lasting, if you pick them just as they are opening.  They are spectacular in a strong, bold sculptural arrangement, but equally at home in a soft mixed bouquet of natives.  I love them, and am so proud to be able to grow them commercially.  

It's tricky taming wild plants though - and these Richea Dracophyllya are definitely wild! They grow in the wet forest and mountain regions of southern Tasmania - you can find them on the slopes of Mount Wellington in Hobart.  They can be quite unruly, and their leaves are a little spiky.  In the wild, they are described as "sparsely branched" but my cultivated specimens are certainly not that!   They are densely branched and thick, requiring gloves to get in and prune them.  They need pruning to produce long upright stems, otherwise the flower spikes can grow an funny angles searching for the sun.

The plants themselves, as with many bush plants, don't really announce themselves until they start to flower.  But the flower spikes really do say "look at me"!  They sometimes have a deep pink blush to the bracts, which then brown and fall off revealing the rice-like flowers underneath.  Their petals are fused together to form a little cap, which falls off and reveals the stamen.  All of this gives the flower a rich textural appearance to add to its strong structural look.

I decided to get up close and personal with these little tiny flowers, using my macro lens.  Lots of fun and such a fascinating look at things that are normally lost to the naked eye.

How cute are the little rice-like flowers peeping out from behind the bracts?!

In this photo you can see that the "rice" are like the petals of the flower that have been fused together - they slip off the flower as it matures, to reveal the stamen.

Little "rice" petals.

A tangle of stamen awash with pollen.

Such a fascinating and beautiful structure!  In my internet browsing about the Richea Dracophylla,  I found a blog by a self-confessed Tasmanian plant nerd who even tried the nectar in his exploration of Tasmanian Bush Tucker.  So apparently, they taste good too!

So I hope I'm doing my bit to spread the word about the beauty of native flowers, and especially Tasmanian ones - they are really exceptional!  I hope you get a chance to enjoy them sometime.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cheery Winter Colour

Winter can be a little dreary, especially when you get days and days of rain.  In Tasmania, the sun rises late and sets early, and tracks lower across the sky than in summer.   Sunshine is sometimes scarce.  But  just as winter is really setting in, there are a number of plants that begin to bloom in that sunshine yellow that you really crave on a grey day.  The daffodils and jonquils start to pop up, and the masses of wattle brighten up the landscape.  Leucadendrons are wonderfully colourful in winter too.  Inca Gold are a well known hybrid that have been grown commercially for many years.  As the weather gets colder, they get brighter, until the yellow becomes almost creamy.   They glow on a grey day, seeming to promise that warmer weather is coming.

These Inca Gold are fabulous in a seasonal bunch.  Their colour coincides with the flowering of Safari Sunset which, whilst beautifully rich red at other times of the year, turn pink and cream with central cones covered in yellow pollen.  It's such a pretty and cheery midwinter colour combination.

These bunches of mid-winter cheer are off to a local shop, ready to bring some sunshine to someone's grey day!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Whats In the Basket?

I haven't done a "what's in the basket" post for a while now, but that doesn't mean I've stopped snapping basket shots!  It has more to do with a lack of blogging time than anything.  There is so much happening around the farm and on days when the weather prevents too much outdoor activity, I have been doing some "spring" cleaning and redecorating inside.  I have a current theory that winter is a better time for spring cleaning than spring is!
Last week was a very cold, wet week in southern Tasmania.  Winter has definitely set in here!  But I managed to do a fair bit of picking and pruning in amongst the blustering wind, hail and even snow!  The photo is blurry because is was taken in the rain, but the colours are still cheery and vibrant and the flowers are looking lovely in the cold weather.  It seems the colder it gets, the happier they look.  They Protea Pink Ice certainly prefer the cold to the heat.  They don't look as happy or fresh in the summer. 
So in the basket we have Grampians Thryptomene (tiny white flowers on long branches and the bottom of the photo).  You can read more about them here.  They will continue throughout winter and into early spring with more of the tiny buds opening until they cover the branches like snow.  I love picking them because they smell fabulous!  There are the usual Pink Ice, and there is a Protea Neriifolia as well, just coming into bloom at the moment.  The larger red Leuco's you can see are Safari Sunset that are starting to get their spring colouring already.  We have plots of them planted in different areas around the farm and some flower before the others.  The ones higher on the hill catch more sun at this time of year and flower earlier.  The fine red foliage at the top of the photo is Leucadendron Tall Red.  It will flower in August and it really makes you stop and look when it does, but at this time of the year it is useful as a tall foliage that adds colour and structure to a mixed bunch.