Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Cones

Some Leucadendrons are grown not for their flowers but for the cones that appear after the flower.  This hybrid Leucadendron Jubilee Crown is one of them.  It is often called Christmas Cones because it produces these lovely blushing red cones in December, just in time for Christmas.  

The flowers of the Christmas Cone bush are pretty but not really memorable.  After the flowers are spent, the centre starts to swell and a cone forms.  It swells and as it does, its colour becomes more vibrant until it is round and rosie red and ready for picking.  The bush produces lovely straight stems which get longer with good rainfall.  

Christmas Cones are fabulous in a Christmas bunch - their colour and texture lend themselves well to seasonal arrangements.  They are long lasting too, like most Leucadendrons, and will usually be the freshest looking flower in the bunch, after all the others are spent.  

After the cones are spent, they open and dry out, and resemble tiny pinecones.  Last years cones remain on the bush.  They are generally not sold at this stage, but I think they still look lovely and can be used in floral arrangements even as a "dead" or spent flower.  

Leucadendron Jubilee Crown, "Christmas Cones", is not the main event in an arrangement but it is certainly a valuable addition to a Christmas arrangement adding a charming texture and colour.   

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Christmas Rush

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have Christmas in winter.  Summer is such a busy season here.  There is so much to do around the farm - the grass seems to grow while you watch it.  The leucaspermums all seems to flower at once, and everyone wants flowers for Christmas.  Add to all this the normal end of year activities and you end up with a great long list of things that need to be done!  But in amongst it all, there are some fun jobs.  I've been designing christmas arrangements and wreaths and I love the creative side of it. 

The potted arrangement above has three types of Leucosermum - Cordifolium (the orange one) Scarlet Ribbons (the red) and Mardi Gras (the yellow and orange).  I've also included some Berzelia or button bush - the creamy white little pom poms, and a selection of leucadendrons.  

This Christmas wreath includes our newest planting of leucaspermums - Scarlet Ribbons.  They've been in the ground just over 2 years and we've had a great crop of them this year.  They are a relatively early flowering variety for us, and they look so cheery on the hillside where they grow.  I love the way they change colour from pink and greyish purple and red when they are just opening, to rich red with orange and tinges of pink as they mature.  

The wreath also has our leucadendron Christmas Cones - the little purplish red cones that you can see peeping out of the foliage.  They are such a great Christmas time plant.  The beautiful swelling cones are so vibrant on the end of the stems, and even look good when they are aged and dry.  They end up looking like miniature pinecones on the end of the stems.  What a useful Christmas plant!!  

I have added some of our Tasmanian Myrtle foliage too, which is looking so spectacular after its growth season in spring.  It's botanical name is Nothofagus Cunninghamii.  It is a beautiful Tasmanian tree that is highly prized for its pinkish toned timber which makes wonderful furniture and wood products.  I love to pick it, because it has a wonderful resinous smell that lingers on your hands. 
You might also be able to see some Geraldton Wax flowers, and some Eucalyptus foliage.  I just love the way the colours and textures of the different plants blend together when I'm creating different bunches and arrangements. 

I think sometimes the busyness of the season can get the creative juices flowing!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Summer Colours

Summer is within reach!  The days are longer and warmer and the first early summer flowering Leucaspermums are starting to bloom.  Leucaspermums are a species of plants within the Protea family.  They are native to South Africa, although here in Australia they are often called "natives".  They do resemble a lot of our Australian Proteaceae - they seem like a cross between a waratah and a grevillea, with a great variety of colours.  Leucaspermums usually flower in late spring and early summer.  Here at Swallows Nest Farm, we have 5 different varieties.  The one pictured is a hybrid called Mardi Gras with bright yellow stamens and red inner petals that give an overall colour of golden yellow.  

In bud form, they are silvery and hairy.  Then the bud starts to swell and out pop the stamens exposing both the yellow and the red.  It's an explosion of colour!

Mardi Gras are one of the earlier flowering Leucaspermums that we grow here.  The other is called Scarlet Ribbons.  These two are available from mid November up until Christmas, give or take a week depending on the seasonal weather.  These plants produce a large crop of flowers in a short space of time.  

Leucaspermums are long lasting flowers like most proteas, if they are handled correctly.  They must be packed carefully though, because they have a tendency to loose their heads!  The flower can easily pop off the stem if they are handled roughly.

Leucaspermums love to be pruned and will produce many more flowers next year, if this years flowers are picked.  They are ready to pick when the first yellow stamens start to emerge.  They will continue to open once they are in a vase.

I love this early flowering variety that has the colours of summer!

Monday, November 12, 2012

In Full Bloom

Spring is coming to an end, and the Tasmanian Waratahs are in full bloom.  The smell of summer is in the air!  Many of the spring flowering leucadendrons are starting to loose their colour now and the summer flowering proteas are getting ready to make their appearance.  Watch out in the next week or so for the bright and beautiful Leucaspermums, commonly known as pincushions, that are popular coming into Christmas.  

I'll be posting about the amazing varieties of pincushions that we have here at Swallows Nest Farm as they begin to flower.  In the meantime, enjoy the last of spring and its spectacular colour!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What's in the Basket?

We've been at Swallows Nest Farm for 4 years, and not long after we arrived, I found a basket at a local op shop which said "BUY ME"!  It has become my constant companion on the farm.  I use it for everything from planting to pruning to picking and even delivering bunches.  When we are picking large wholesale quantities collecting into a trailer attached to a small tractor, I always have my trusty basket to take the flowers to the tractor.  

Boronia Heterophylla, Leucadendron Lemon Spice, Grampians Thryptomene, Berzelia Button Bush

Every now and again, I look down at the basket and admire its contents.  Then, I'll whip out the iphone and snap off a photo. 

Isopogon Formosa Pink Cone Flower, Red Gem Leucadendron, Berzelia Button Bush

I have quite a collection of these basket photos now, and have decided to start a regular (or irregular!) post on the blog called "What's in the Basket?"  This will be the first of many so you get a kind of overview - a Year in a Basket!

Leucadendrons Maui Sunset, Safari Sunset, Inca Gold, Tall Red, Safari Gold Strike and Protea Neriifolia 

The basket is quite large but sometimes it gets overloaded - the flowers in the photo above make it look so small!

Grampians Thryptomene, Richea Dracophylla, Berzelia Button Bush, Telopea Speciosissima Waratah

Retail bunches ready for delivery to a local shop.

I'm looking forward to sharing what's in my basket. I hope you enjoy taking a peek!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Giving Flowers

In the last two weeks I have picked flowers for so many occasions.  It has caused my mind to wander about the gift of flowers.  I can think of no other gift that is appropriate for congratulations, and commiserations, to celebrate and to encourage.  We use them in weddings and funerals.  They are given to celebrate birth and to sympathise in death.  Flowers say "I love you", "I'm sorry" and "Thankyou".  They say "Welcome Home" and "Goodbye".  I find it quite amazing!

A friend recently passed on a book called "The Language of Flowers"  by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  It was a great read!  It is based on the Victorian idea of expressing thoughts and feelings through the gift of flowers.  The Victorians had a very sophisticated flower language.  I want to do some more exploring in this area now - I've been inspired!  At the back of the book was a paraphrased list of flowers and the meanings assigned to them through this floral language.  Of course, I was keen to look up Protea, and was really surprised by its meaning.

Proteas mean courage.

I rather like their meaning!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I'm Having a GIVEAWAY!

Welcome to my first giveaway!  We are celebrating spring, and new beginnings.  We've changed our name officially to Swallows Nest Farm and we want the world to know!  And who doesn't love a giveaway?! For those of you who don't know, as well as running Swallows Nest Farm, I am also a practicing artist as well as having an online shop called trees4thewood where I sell small artworks and handmade cards, all inspired by the flowers and birds here on the farm.  Yes, life is full, but I love it.  

And I love it when everything comes together too!  In the shop, this years Christmas cards are based on the beautiful Tasmanian Waratah that I featured in the previous post,  and seeing as we've officially changed our name (we were previously trading as Parson's Bay Proteas - boring huh?!) we thought we'd celebrate with a giveaway.

So what's the prize, you ask?  You get

Set of 6 professionally printed postcards of flowers from Swallows Nest Farm
Pack of 5 handmade Tasmanian Waratah Christmas Cards from trees4thewood
Pack of 3 Welcome Swallow Fancy Edged Note Cards from trees4thewood
A hand painted Tasmanian Waratah bookmark from trees4thewood

Thats a prize worth $50+!!!  

What do I have to do to win this fabulous package, I hear you ask?!?

Thats simple!  I'm using Rafflecopter to run the giveaway.  There are three ways you can enter - and if you do all three, you get three entries! Entries are open for three weeks. Follow the prompts below and good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tasmanian Waratahs

This week, I picked my first Tasmanian Waratahs for the season.  I have one bush that flowers in late October - just a bit earlier than the rest.  Almost over night, it seemed to be covered in bright red blooms.

Most people associate the Waratah with New South Wales, probably because its is that states floral emblem, but Victoria and Tasmania are also home to some wonderful species of waratah.  At Swallows Nest Farm, we are lucky to be growing the waratah endemic to Tasmania called Telopea Truncata. It is a smaller flowered plant to its mainland cousins, but size isn't everything!  The Tassie waratah is about the size of a carnation and looks a bit like a cross between a "normal" waratah and a grevillea.  It has lovely bent styles the give it a charming sculptural quality.

The Tasmanian Waratah grows as a large shrub to 3 m, but can that can get to over 8 metres tall.  In the wild, it grows in wet forest areas and flowers in November and December.  It is often picked in the wild for the flower trade. The flowers are striking red making the bush really stand out when its in bloom.  Very rarely, the flowers are actually yellow.  The yellow form has been used to make hybrid waratahs which are available to purchase as garden plants called "Shady Lady Yellow".  It is the only waratah to have a yellow variation.  

I love it that these cheery Tasmanians are ready to pick in the lead-up to Christmas.  As a flower grower, its the plants that help to mark the seasons and this one is such a lovely Christmassy flower.  It brightens up a bouquet and compliments the other flowers that are available in the Christmas season. 

The Tasmanian Waratah is best propagated by seed.  After the plant has flowered it produces some fantanstic seed pods.  I'm a bit of a collector of seed pods and waratah seed pods are definitely worth collecting!

Look out for Tasmanian Waratahs in your florist or in the wild during November and December.  They are a real treat and a great reminder that Christmas is fast approaching!

If you'd like to have a go at growing your own Tasmanian Waratah, you can buy fresh seed collected from Swallows Nest Farm here.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More Waratahs

Spring is definitely upon us here in Southern Tasmania.  There are beautiful warm days with glorious blue skies, followed by bitterly cold days with snow and hail, and ferocious winds.  The grass is thickening and lush green, and there is a smell in the air that promises summer.  

At Swallows Nest farm, the flower thats getting the most attention is still the Waratah.  We have a few  varieties - there are the large early flowering ones, and then the later pinkish ones.  We have some late flowering rich reds and some wonderful Wirrimbirra White.  They flower from September through to October and into November when the Tasmanian Waratah, Telopea Truncata, starts to flower.  

I came across the following picture on the internet recently and thought it was a wonderful use of a pink waratah.  I certainly hadn't seen them in a bouquet like this before.  Our white waratahs are popular for wedding bouquets, but these look fabulous and striking too.  Great idea.

Of course, as the rest of our waratahs begin to pop, I will be putting up pictures of them.  The differences in varieties can be quite amazing. 

The other news is that I'm planning a small giveaway! Stay tuned - details will follow ...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Maui Sunset

The next spring flowering Leucadendron I'm featuring this year is this gorgeous blushing beauty called Maui Sunset.  It's creamy white bracts are tinged with delicate pink and the shape is almost rose-like.  For most of the year, Maui Sunset is a fairly unremarkable green.  

There is a tinge of brownish pink, but its not what you'd call a "stand-out" colour.  Over winter, the pinkish tinge begins to increase, and the green slowly starts to lighten. 

By late winter, these lovely leuco's have thrown off their cloak of invisibility and are definitely beginning to shout "look at me"!  But they continue to lighten until they are almost white, glowing, and rimmed with pink.  The ridge along the top of the hill where they grow is transformed.

Maui Sunset are not widely found in florists.  They don't have the same long stems that other leuco's have.  I think the colour and beauty of them make up for the shorter stems!  We often leave some of our bushes uncut and allow them to grow two seasons, giving them a multi headed stem with longer length.    Then, they are really useful in larger bunches.  

The Maui Sunset on top of the basket above show how this second years growth give the effect of many flowers on one stem.  I picked 6 or 7 stems here, and each stem had 3 or 4 flowers on it.  

The spectacular colour transformation of these Maui Sunset are a very obvious sign of the change of season around the farm, and their effect is so cheery and bright - they are definitely a spectacular spring flowering Leucadendron.  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Waratah's Are Out

Today, I picked my first Waratah of the season.  What a stunning flower, the Waratah is.  It is an Australian Native, and the floral emblem of New South Wales.  We grow a number of different Waratah or Telopea hybrids at Swallows Nest.  They are characterised by their long (up to 1 metre) strait stems, and large red showy flowers that are long lasting.  

The Waratah is from the Proteaceae family and grows from a lignotuber, a swelling in the root crown that acts as a protection from fire.  The plant stores nutrients and buds in the lignotuber, and can sprout from below ground level.  Because of this, cutting the flowers of a Waratah encourage more stems to sprout until you get a very bushy plant with many many stems.  Some cut flower growers have very prolific plants producing up to 400 stems each, in a season.  Ours are not quite up to that yet, but we are working on it!  

Over summer the plant focuses on producing stems.  Each stem forms a single bud.  Then over late winter the bud begins to swell.  

Over a period of weeks, they begin to open and reveal the flower.  Waratahs seems to slowly unpack themselves in stages.  The outer "petals" are actually modified leaves called bracts.  Inside the bracts are many small flowers arranged in a dome shape to form what we think of as the Waratah flower.  These individual little flowers seem to unfold and arrange themselves in the recognisable domed shape before they start to actually open.  

You can see in the picture above how the little flowerets begin to open at the outside and work their way to the middle of the dome.  

A tip for buying or picking Waratahs is to select ones that have just begun to open their little flowerets.  This will usually start on the sunny side of the plant.  Once a few of styles are open, they are ready to pick.  This will give them a much longer vase-life.  When buying Waratahs, look for ones that are not completely open.  This will give you longer to enjoy them.

At Swallows Nest Farm, we have a number of different varieties of hybrid Waratahs.  The first flowers usually appear in early September, and later flowering varieties keep appearing until mid to late December. We have some beautiful white ones too, which I'll feature when they start to flower in a few weeks.  

These popular flowers are a wonderful bold statement that spring is here!