Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Plants

I'm very excited about the arrival today of our new batch of plants.  As I've mentioned recently, winter is a great time for planting at Swallows Nest.  Last year we put in around 200 new plants.  This year, we're being very restrained - only 36!  But when they arrived today, I was so surprised by the size of them.  They were much larger and more advanced than I expected.  I can even see the beginnings of flowers on some stems, long enough to pick if and when they form properly.  I have been chasing these plants for a few years now, so there is an extra excitement at having finally been able to source some!

So what are they?  They are a type of Brunia which I have written about before.  We planted some new  Brunia last year - Brunia Albiflora which have a white flower.  These new plants are called Brunia Stokoei.  Absoloutely stunning cut flowers on long stems with beautiful architectural silvery spheres that have tiny rings of flowers - in this case pink.

We ordered the plants from a nursery in Victoria, and the horticultural transport company that brought them across Bass Strait for us wouldn't deliver them to the door, so we had to pick them up.  I'm glad there were only 36 - they were so big that they filled the entire car.  

Notice how soggy the ground is?! Great planting weather! 

This is the beginning of a flower spike, and you can see the balls starting to form.  I'm looking forward to the first flowers!!!  In the meantime, its digging holes and planting.

Please note that the first photo is not mine.  Click here to see its original home!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lovely Leuco's Part 3

Red Gem are a fabulous Leucadendron.  The protea books all tell you that they are unsuitable as cut flowers, because their stems aren't long enough, but here in Tassie, they are spectacular and regularly grow to 80 and 90 cm stem lengths.  These beautiful red leuco's are so versatile for so many reasons.  They have large flower bracts, tulipy in shape.  Their colour ranges from deep red, early in the season, to bronzey red, and then in winter to bright yellow, before they open to reveal their pollen presenters.  
They are a great plant to grow too - they have a special type of root system called a lignotuber, which means they can shoot stems from old wood, and even from below the ground.  In the "old days" they were regularly pruned with a chainsaw!!! I certainly wouldn't do that to them, but they do love to be pruned, and produce many new flower stems afterwards.  
We don't regularly prune our plants, but use the picking process as an opportunity to prune.  It's such a lovely job, picking these Leuco's. Not only am I rewarded with masses of lovely flowers, but i can almost hear the plants' pleasure knowing that I am also setting them up for a great crop next year.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Winter Activity

Apart from picking, the main winter activity on the protea farm for us is planting.  Proteas are characterised by a special root system.  They have deep roots that anchor them, like other plants, but they also have a "proteoid" root system that is shallow and renews itself every year.  Proteas are very cyclical plants.  Winter is their root growing season, and this makes winter a good time for planting.  

Last year, we planted around 200 plants.  I'm very excited about the varieties - White Ice - a beautiful white protea with icy white "fur".  Another variety we put in is White King.  It is a type of Protea Cynaroides, the largest flowering protea with a flower the size of a dinner plate!  The white variety we planted should be a stunning flower!  It will be 3 or 4 years before we see the results though - King Proteas are slow to mature.  But it will be worth the wait!

This morning I rang a supplier about ordering some more plants for planting this winter.  I hope I am able to get the variety I'm after!  This time next year, they'll be established, and growing, and I'll hopefully be blogging about them!  I love winter!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Welcome to Winter

Welcome to winter on the farm!  It's a little chilly, and quite wet, but its a beautiful season.  There are many proteas that flower right through the winter.  In fact, I think they are superior in some ways to the blooms produced in the warmer seasons.  They seem to be clearer and brighter, free from insect activity and the effects of strong sun.  They really glow!

Winter is also a great time for planting proteas.  We have planted in all seasons here at Swallows Nest Farm,  and by far the most successful season is winter.  The plants clearly love getting their roots into the soil when its cooler.  It gives them time to focus on their roots before they feel they have to produce leafy growth.  There is more rainfall here in winter too, so there is no need to irrigate.  Real rain always produces better results than irrigation.  Somehow, the plants can tell!

Our very first winter here, 3 1/2 years ago, we planted 50 new plants as an experiment.  We didn't really know what we were doing, but I had read up on all the varieties and then realised that I could only really buy what I could find available!  A local nursery had some of these, so in went 50 Leucadendron Safari Goldstrike.  They were so small!

We put them in the ground and never irrigated them once!  I remember that as I planted the last 3 plants,  it started to rain.  Three years later, they look like this!

This spring will be our first big harvest of these wonderful yellow Leucadendrons.  They have large teacup-like heads in bright yellow, on strong strait stems of amazing length.  Really spectacular.  I will be sure to post photos of them as they start to sparkle!