Saturday, June 14, 2014

Protea Repens - Sugarbush

Protea Repens are a species of protea that are widely grown due to their hardiness and versatility.  They can be grown in a wide range of environments and are famous for being the first protea ever to be grown outside of South Africa, their native environment.  

We planted some Protea Repens around four years ago now, and are just starting to be able to pick the flowers in useful numbers.  They've been slow to establish but I blame that on lack of experience and the fact that we planted them in summer - certainly not something we'd do now.  Planting proteas, I have learned from experience, is best done during the winter months.  But nevertheless, they have begun to really grow well now, and I'm certainly enjoying the stunning flowers they are beginning to produce.

Protea Repens is commonly known as Sugarbush.  This is because of the large amounts of nectar that the flower can produce.  The whole flower has an appearance of being waxy or shiny, due to the stickiness of the nectar.  It has no fringing or fur like many proteas have, and it has more elongated or geometric look to the flowers.  It naturally occurs in a range of colours from white or very pale yellow through to pink and red.  We bought red Repens, but have found as they've started flowering that we have some pinks and even one or two yellow forms.  

In the photo above, you can see the shiny quality that the flowers sometimes have.  It also shows the difference in colour between a red Repens and a pink.

The Protea Repens really stand out in a bouquet with their pointed petals splaying out.  As they open the central mass is revealed.  The two flowers on the left and centre have white centres and the flower at the bottom right has a red central mass.  Having bought plants of all one colour, I'm still to find out if the flowers are different due to conditions or genetics. Its nice to have a variety though!

In South Africa, there are Repens that flower throughout the seasons, depending upon their origins.  Mine flower in autumn and into winter.  It's lovely to have such a cheery flower blooming at this time.  As you can see in the above picture, the red Repens really stand out with their intense cheery colour.  

The delicate pink tinting on the lighter coloured Repens accentuates the pointed triangular tips of the flowers.

Such a pretty flower! 

Monday, June 9, 2014

What's in the Basket?

Wow!  What a busy month its been.  Harvesting of autumn and winter flowers has been in full swing.  We are still catching up on clearing and particularly pruning some of the plants that got away from us during the break we had with our baby (who is now 3!!).  
I love pruning!  I am working on a blog post about pruning proteas and leucadendrons.  Its such a satisfying activity.  Yesterday I did a small burst of pruning, and came back with a basket of early winter flowers.  Pruning large Protea Pink Ice can be hard work.  Some branches need more than my Felco shears can manage.  But the flowers are beautiful at this time of year and I salvage any I can.  
Small Protea Repens have been in the ground for 4 years.  They need a different type of pruning and shaping, encouraging lots of new straight stemmed flowers for next year.  I'm looking forward to having the first good harvest nest year.  The flowers from this year are lovely and you can see some of them in the basket.  
There are also some Banksia Occidentalis in the mix.  They are nearly at the end of their flowering for the year and even though they're only 3-4 years old, they need heavy pruning.  I'm trying to keep them at a manageable height because they are such vigorous growers.  
Some Leucadendron Safari Goldstrike are in the basket.  They are getting ready to flower and I'll be harvesting them in a couple of months.  This will be 5 years since they were planted and we are so happy with them.  A few wayward shoots too good to waste made it into the basket of pruning pickings.  The flower heads have properly formed and won't wilt, but I'll wait until they colour up before I pick them in earnest.  
The first few branches of Thryptomene are just starting to bloom.  By the end of winter, these will be covered in white blooms.  The excitement of seeing the first flowers of the year always encourages a bit of early picking!
The last little flower in the basket is a wild yellow Banksia Marginata.  I have a few of these Banksias growing along the path to the flowers and they are flowering profusely at the moment.  The bushes are really large - 6 to 8 metres tall and full of flowers, but most of them are growing at odd angles with shoots sticking out.  Every so often, one or two make their way into my basket and usually end up in a vase in the kitchen!