Thursday, August 30, 2012

Truly Tasmanian - The Pineapple Candle Heath

Meet the Pineapple Candle Heath, or Richea Dracaphylla,  a truly Tasmanian flower.  When I first discovered this plant, I thought it looked like it should be a tropical bloom - some type of rainforest rarity that could be feasted on by colorful tropical birds.  But its home is the temperate rainforest slopes of Mount Wellington and other high altitude rainforests - moist and cold, the soil wet with snow-melt and a dense canopy of trees over head.  It is endemic or native to Tasmania.  These flowers have been harvested in the wild, but at Swallows Nest we have some wonderful well established plants that are able to be pruned and trained to produce lovely long stems.  

Pruning these plants is no mean feat!  They are as spiky as they look and very dense.  Gloves are required!  But the effort is worth it when the lovely long stems produce beautiful tall flower spikes.  Flowering time is usually the spring months but we often get flowers here much earlier - July and August.  Flowers can also surprise us at other times of the year, but August is usually when they are really starting to bloom in earnest.   

The spiky leaves, about 20cm long, spiral up the stem and the flower emerges from the crown of the spiral.  These flowers are sometimes called Riceflower, because of the obvious likeness.   The rice-looking part is actually the petals of the flower that are fused together.  They fall off when the stamen in mature.  These petals are grouped together and sheathed by bracts that often carry a pink or red tinge.  

In this picture, you can just see the flower starting to emerge from the spiral of leaves on the stem.  

In this picture, you can see how the bracts surround the petals.  There are some petals peeping out on the left.  The bract will open and eventually fall off.

Richea Dracophylla, or Pineapple Candle Heath are a very architectural flower - a strong bold shape.  But they can also be softened by adding them to other natives.  They are a beautiful and unusual flower - uniquely Tasmanian.  

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tall Red

August is the month that heralds the beginning of spring colour among the Leucadendrons here at Swallows Nest Farm.  This lovely leuco is called Tall Red - an uninspired name for such a wonderful plant, I always think.  It is a selected type of Leucadendron Eucalyptifolium, which is characterised by its profuse, pointy leaves and vigorous growth habit.  It is wonderful as a foliage plant throughout the year, with a lovely red colour and long stems making it very useful.  Sometime in August, depending upon the weather conditions, it starts to sparkle and make itself much more noticeable.  The foliage changes from a rusty red to a pinky, bright red with yellow parts in the areas that get less sun.  Gorgeous lime green cones emerge.  Branches are covered in these flowers making them a beautiful textural cut flower.

In the picture above, you can see the colour variation caused by the level of sun the leaves are getting. The bracts around these cones are creamy with a pink tinge.  The more sun they receive the deeper the red colouring.  Sometimes, the colour will change along a single stem.  There are so many flower cones on each stem that the variation adds to the charm of this plant.

The cones act as pollen presenters and over a period of weeks become yellow as they "present" their pollen.  They look lovely at this stage, like little yellow pom-poms.

This picture shows the lime green of the cones as the stems of Tall Red wait to be put in bunches in the packing shed.  

Tall Red looks fabulous in mixed bunches at this time of the year - imagine how it would be missed in this bunch.  Even though it has lovely long stems, it can also be cut down and the flowers used in box arrangements or posies.  Its multi-flowered stems add texture and colour with a long vase life.  A truly Lovely Leuco!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Spring is in the Air

Spring is just around the corner, and many of the plants are beginning to wake up after their winter rest.  There is a riot of colour among the many types of leucadendrons.  Over the next few weeks, I will be featuring some amazing spring flowering proteaceae but here is a sneak peek!

All of these lovely leucadendrons are late-winter or early-spring bloomers.  They create a mass of colour and texture at this time of year.  I think you'll agree that the effect is wonderfully cheery!

Saturday, August 4, 2012


Thryptomene is a beautiful Australian native shrub that we grow here at Swallows Nest.  This variety is Grampians Thryptomene, found as the name suggests in the Grampians region in Victoria.  It is extensively picked in the wild there, for the cut flower trade.  We only have a small number of bushes here, but they are well established and very productive. 

In mid to late winter,  the tiny bright pink buds begin to burst into dainty little flowers that erupt between the leaves and cover the length of the branches.  They continue to flower for the next few months.  I think they have the look of snow laden branches at this time of the year.

One of the features of Thryptomene is it's beautiful aromatic smell.  Fresh, clean and foresty, it really lingers.  I love it!  

Thryptomene is long lasting as a cut flower.  It looks great as a filler in a bouquet and adds a fresh scent and a touch of authentic Australian winter.  Look out for it in florists during the cooler months!