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!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Grace
    I love your photos. I have an assignment to do and need some pcitures of waratahs. I was wondering if you would be so kind as to give me permission to use your photos. You will be referenced in my assignment. Irene Manning