Autumn is a busy time in the flower farm. There are many proteas that flower over autumn and winter, and the cooler weather also brings a chance for clearing away the excess growth of summer. There are so many weeds! But I love the beginning of the cooler weather. It seems like the plants are invigorated again after being a bit tired and weary at the end of summer.
Protea Pink Ice, a cut flower industry staple, is absolutely sparkling at this time of year. Beautiful clear pink flowers with icy white tips and clean, clear foliage are bursting out all over the bushes. If you're buying these flowers, here is a tip - pick ones that are not quite fully open. You'll get a much longer vase life. Most people go for the really big, open flowers, but these are just at the end of their vase life and will quickly discolour and collapse.
Late summer and early autumn also brings out my favourite flower that we grow here at Swallows Nest Farm. Its called Brunia Albiflora. Its not technically a protea, but it is native to South Africa and is a spectacular, sought after cut flower with beautiful long strait stems topped with stunning glowing silver balls of tightly packed flower buds. Its very architectural and looks fabulous en masse, or as an accent in a mixed arrangement.
Brunia Albiflora is not a plant you'll find at your local nursery. They are quite difficult to propagate and as a result its difficult to come by these plants, even as a grower. I was very excited last year when we managed to get hold of some plants from Victoria and so we have dramatically increased our future production of these rare and beautiful flowers. I can't wait!
Brunia's silvery balls will begin to burst into tiny rings of flowers at this time of the year. Each ball will begin flowering in a ring around the outer edge of the ball and slowly, the flowers will open inwards until the whole ball is covered in tiny flowers. Some people prefer the plant before the flower comes out, others like it both ways.
I always like to have some of the current season's flowers on my windowsill in the kitchen, as a reminder of whats going on outside. I could tell you I'm doing experiments in vase-life, but really I'm just enjoying the produce!
Whatever you do, if you are lucky enough to come by some of these flowers, don't throw them out when they are past their best. They make spectacular dried flowers and keep for years. You don't need to do anything fancy with them. Just take them outside and strip off the tiny needle-like leaves so the stalks don't shed. Then they are good to go in a vase again for a dried flower arrangement.