Thursday, May 31, 2012

Drying Proteas

Proteas are fabulous as dried flowers.  They have great sculptural qualities and they keep their structure well, not falling apart easily.  There are no real tricks to drying your proteas - you don't need to hang them upside down, although it doesn't hurt.  Just as long as they are dried without being too crowded, to make sure their shape remains intact, and to allow for airflow.  Some even keep their colour well.  

You can get fancy if you want to - the following are some ideas from Proteaflora, a major Protea nursery in Victoria.
Pick the flowers in their prime, strip off the bottom leaves then tie about 5 of the flowers together in a tight bunch with a rubber band. Hang them, heads down in a dry, dark, airy spot for about two weeks.

In a Glycerin Solution
The glycerin keeps the plant material supple and helps it last longer. After cutting and stripping the foliage, place the stems in a glycerin solution as soon as you can. Use a mix of one third glycerin (available at your chemist) to two thirds water. The solution should be seven to fourteen cm deep. Don't put stems in water first, and if the stems have been cut for more than one hour, re-cut them before placing them in the glycerin solution. When tiny beads of glycerin appear on the leaves, take them out and hang them as described above.

The pink flowers pictured are Protea Pink Ice.  There are some others mixed in including Brunia Albiflora, (press the link to check out more of these) and some Leucadendron Argenteum.  I am also lucky enough to have a huge Banksia Grandis tree and the seed pods often come on long stems which make a great display.

So next time you have a bunch of proteas, think about drying them for longer lasting loveliness!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lovely Leuco's Part 2

Sylvan Red is a variety of Leucadendron that we grow at Swallows Nest.  They are a well known variety and a popular cut flower.  They are similar to the Safari Sunset I first featured with a few exceptions.  They are a brighter red, as you can see, and they are finer, with almost a more pointy end to the leaves and flower bracts.  They are finer in the stem too, but they can still grow an incredible length - up to 1 mt. They really glow in the sunlight on the farm, but the smell is something I can't capture with a camera.  There is a faint sweetness to their perfume which makes picking them a real joy.  They are at their peak at the moment, but left unpicked will change colour in early winter and become multicoloured red and yellow, opening to reveal the pollen presenters inside.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ink and Spindle

I'm a big instagram fan and recently, I came across a boutique fabric design company in Melbourne that have done a range of fabrics inspired by Leucadendrons. Of course, I just LOVE it, so I thought I'd share a few of their pictures.  

If you're interested, check out their blog at

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lovely Leuco's

Leaucadendrons are one of the most popular flowers in the florist trade.  They are incredibly long lasting, they are available all year round, and come in a range of colours.  They look equally happy amongst natives, or more traditional flowers.  And yet, many people, although they would recognise them, wouldn't have heard of them.  We grow lots of varieties of Leucadendrons at the Swallows Nest.  

At the moment, most of the Leuco's (as we call them) are rich red.  We have three main varieties of red Leucos, all with slightly different properties.  This one, called Safari Sunset is the most popular Leucadendron grown worldwide.  It is a rich deep red, has long strait stems up to 1 mt, and is sturdy.  It has a medium sized flower head.  

If you weren't familiar with Leucadendrons before, I'm sure you'll recognise them if you look for them, peeping out from a bouquet at a florist or sold in lovely large bunches at flower markets.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is a great time for flowers.  Usually, we sell our flowers wholesale in large quantities, but being an artist, I love the creative challenge of making retail bunches.  I'm not trained in floristry so they are not technically well constructed, but I love combining colour and texture and making the flowers look their best.  My local General Store sells bunches for me, and I love the challenge of creating bunches that say "buy me" to shoppers.  This week, I made some Mother's Day bunches.  Here are a few snaps!

 From the field to the bucket, and from the bucket to the bunch!

 Happy Mother's Day

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sugar Bush

It is generally thought that winter isn't a great time for flowers, but proteas are the exception to this.  There are many protea species that flower in autumn and winter, when other flowers are hard to find.  They grow through spring and summer, sending up long stems, and then in autumn they set buds and begin to flower.  Three years ago, we planted some new proteas called Protea Repens or Sugar Bush.  They have flowered for the first time this season, beginning in autumn, and continuing now into early winter.  I am delighted with them.   They are quite different to our standard Pink Ice protea.  They are waxy rather than hairy (!) and don't have the silvery bloom that many common proteas have.  When we have a new flower, I love to put a few on my kitchen windowsill and watch them open over days and weeks - I guess as a kind of road test!  Here are some of our new beauty.

We have spectacular sunsets at Swallow Nest Farm.  I think that the autumn sunsets are the best.  Its something about the autumn light here in Tasmania - and probably helped by a bit of smoke from Forestry burn offs.  This was the sunset that provided the soft lighting in the protea photo above it.

As the Sugar Bush flower opens, its colour starts to soften, and the centre structure starts to collapse into a wider, less tidy shape. I think its quite beautiful.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Silver Tree

At Swallows Nest Farm, we grow one of the most beautiful foliage plants of the proteaceae family.  It's commonly named the Silver Tree, but its actually a Leucadendron with the proper name of Leucadendron Argenteum.  (Just Latin for silver, really!)  It really does look spectacular at this time of year, and provides the most beautiful soft textured foliage with a silvery green colour that perfectly compliments the other proteas flowering at the same time.

The Silver Tree does actually grow to small tree proportions, but if it is picked regularly, like it is in the cut flower trade, it remains at a reachable height.  Some of our trees have been unpruned for a while and we were so excited to find that the female trees began to produce the most spectacular cones.  They begin as a soft silvery green, like the leaves, but look like they are made of metal.  When they dry, you end up with a beautifully structured cone, about the size of a tennis ball, on the end of a long stem.  They make a great statement in a vase, as a dried flower.

The bark of the Silver Tree is unusual too.  In their native South Africa, they were at one stage used as a firewood tree, because they grow quickly and burn well.  It's unusual wood - quite light, but the bark! I think it looks like elephant skin!

It's a remarkable tree, and we love growing it!