Thursday, October 31, 2013

Telopea Truncata - the Tassie Waratah

Telopea Truncata is the botanical name for the Tasmanian Waratah, a wonderful wild flower that blooms in spring.  I've begun picking these beauties for the season with one of my bushes, a rather large and productive one, flowering weeks before the rest.  It's a joy to grow these special flowers!

Telopea Truncata is a many-branched shrub up to 3 m tall.
The plant can grow to 3 metres with long stems reaching for the sky.  It can take you by surprise, flowering all of a sudden.  The buds, often covered with fine brown hairs,  swell within a few days given the right conditions, and then emerge with red folded blooms.  

Flowers look smaller and less bright when they are just beginning to open.
 What we call the "flower" is actually a cluster of up to 20 individual flowers.  These "unfold" and assemble themselves roughly facing the centre of a circle.  Each individual little flower then begins to unfold freeing their styles with the effect that the flower gets larger and more sculptural.  It also gets more intensely pinky red.  

I pick the waratah early,  before the first "unfolding", which gives them maximum vase life.  They are smaller and less brightly coloured at this stage, but they will continue to unfold naturally and brighten in colour even after being picked.  

The "flowers" have arranged themselves and are beginning to open.

Some of the styles are beginning to emerge from these flowers.  Intense colour and bent styles are typical of Telopea Truncata

The brighter flowers are the more mature flowers.

More mature plants will produce hundreds of blooms each season.  All these are from one of my bushes which flowers 2 weeks earlier than all the rest every year.  It is only about 15% of the flowers this bush produces.  

Telopea Truncata makes a fabulous garden plant too.  

Honeyeaters love these beautiful blooms, which develop droplets of sugary syrup as the flowers reach their peak.  

I know I'm biased, but I have a soft spot for these lovely little waratahs!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thinking About Weddings - The Bouquet

In Tasmania, its not often you get someone wanting to plan a wedding during the winter months.  The weather is a major factor in planning a big day here in the southern-most state of Australia.  Spring and summer are the busy times for weddings, and at Swallows Nest we are excited to be providing flowers for a some weddings over the next few months.  

Proteas and Natives are not the traditional wedding flower, but they are becoming much more popular, and with good reason.  I know I am biased, but really, they do have so much more to offer than many people realise.  Natives offer an incredible range of colour and texture that can lend themselves to both modern and traditional type weddings.   They can be rustic, and simple or sophisticated and sharp.  They can be feminine and soft, or bold and expressive.  Its all in the way you combine the colours, textures and forms.  And then of course, theres the fact that most Natives are hardy and long lasting and  remove the worry of a wilting bouquet!

I've been doing some research into the uses of Natives for weddings so I thought I'd share a few of the ideas I've found.  The internet is awash with ideas and I've recently discovered Pinterest - a serious risk for time-wasting, but full of wonderful ideas for just about everything.  There are some lovely images of weddings that have used natives in creative and beautiful ways, and I've been really inspired.  

The Bouquet, really the central floral point of any wedding, is the focus of these finds.

This beautiful bouquet uses Pink Ice proteas with a variety of Leucadendrons (two variegated forms called Jester and Corringle Gold) and a mix of other beautiful folidages.  There are also some Banksias - what look like Speciosa and Occidentalis.  It has an informal, softly coloured beauty. 

The use of proteas in this bouquet is a different take on a more traditional wedding bouquet shape.  I love the use of eucalyptus foliage too, for the colour and form it adds.  

This is another combination bouquet, using Banksia Baxterii as the main flower and combining it with more traditional flowers.  I love the vibrancy of this one!

More Banksia Baxterii in this one, but adding some Hakea nuts and paper daisies.  I love the leaves of the Banksia Baxterii and I think they've been used well in this cute posy-style bouquet.

There is a great range of whites in the protea family, perfect for weddings!  This is a combination of mini King Protea and white Protea Nerifolia, with the lovely soft black fringing. A few magnolia leaves complete this simple, informal bouquet.

For a spring wedding, Waratahs are a spectacular wedding flower.  I love this bouquet which in addition to the gorgeous red waratahs, also has flannel flower, gum nuts, everlasting daisies, leucadendron, serruria or blushing bride,  and a form of brunia.  

Waratah's are also available in white and, as this bouquet shows, are really well suited for a wedding too.  This bouquets combines them with leucadendron, wax flower, blushing bride or serruria, and some blue flowers that look like cornflowers.  Gorgeous!

I recently did a wedding with an orange and black theme.  The colours and textures of spring were perfect - yellow green Phyllica, Leucadendron Maui Sunset and Red Gem, the bright yellow pom poms of Leucadendron Tall Red, soft Silver Tree foliage and Berzelia or Button Bush all together to form this fresh bright bouquet.  

This fabulous native bouquet uses Banksia Coccinea and Protea as the main flowers, with Safari Sunset Leucadendrons, and what look like a yellow Salignum Leuco.  Very memorable!

Another Swallows Nest Farm bouquet, with simple spring flowers includes an early Waratah, and some Protea Pink Ice, surrounded by soft yellows and greens.  There are Leucadendron Gandogeri, Phyllica Pubescens, Leucadendron Silver Tree, and Berzelia or Button Bush,  a wedding favourite.  Adding white highlights is Thryptomene.  

I'm looking forward to the pincushions coming out here at Swallows Nest.  They are later here than on the mainland of Australia, and go right up until just after Christmas.  Faboulous for weddings in shades of yellow, orange and red, with some beautiful soft colours available too.

More Pink Ice Protea with Leucadendrons, Flannel flower, Thryptomene and beautiful Eucalyptus pods.  Wow!

Last one - I promise!  Although there's so many beautiful native bouquets!!  I love this freestyle bouquet with my favourite Brunia Albiflora, Eucalyptus pods, foliage, and Leucadendrons.  Gorgeous!!

I hope you're inspired!  I hope you've seen the versatility, variety and beauty that natives can bring to a special occasion like a wedding.  I'm looking forward to the rest of the "wedding season" here is Tasmania, hoping to get lots more opportunities to explore what can be done with these fabulous flowers.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Farmers Market

This weekend, I did my first Farmer's Market with our flowers.  I have done quite a few markets over the years with my other work, and with some flowers as a "side" product.  But this was our first market just with flowers and we weren't quite sure what to expect.  

We've been wholesaling flowers for almost 5 years now.  It's a lovely thing to grow, harvest and sell something that you love.  When you pack the flowers into boxes and send them off to their destination, you are never sure where they will end up.  I sometimes wonder where they go, who buys them, and why.  In Tasmania, we don't have a centralised wholesale market for fresh produce so most growers either sell direct to retailers, or to a wholesale vendor who then sells the produce on.  For a while now, I've been keen to do a farmer's market because I wanted to meet the buyers, and get some feedback about what I grow.  

The Bream Creek Farmer's Market has been running for just under 12 months at the beautiful Bream Creek Showgrounds in Copping, southern Tasmania.  It's surrounded by picturesque rolling green hills and is a fabulous spot for a true farmer's market.  We were impressed with the strict guidelines about growers/makers selling their own produce, and the emphasis on organic, top-quality produce.  So we were excited to be able to join the market for the first time.

We took a mix of wholesale flowers and mixed bouquets.  I was inspired by some beautiful spring foliage we have around the farm to also make some smaller posies.  They were a lot of fun to make, mixing colours and textures on a smaller scale. 

Spring foliage for small Posies

 Usually, we have everything in separate buckets so the flowers look like they are sorted according to colour, but this was the cool room filled with a riot of colour!  

wholesale Leuco's
Mixed Bouquet's
The wholesale flowers were a definite favourite and all the bunches of Waratah were gone first.  I was a little surprised that people wanted to buy wholesale flowers rather than arranged bunches. People seem to want to buy selections to take home and arrange for themselves.  It means people are out there getting creative and enjoying flowers.  A flower grower has to be happy with that!

Mind you, once all the wholesale ones were gone, the bouquets went too!  I really enjoyed getting a direct reaction to our product.  The Tasmanian public seem to like variety and new and unusual flowers.  That made me happy, because that's what I love!

I was also really impressed with the variety and standard of amazing locally grown, made, brewed, fermented and gathered produce. Wow!  The stalls either side had beautiful locally grown and produced olives and olive oil,  and the best salad greens I've ever tasted - seriously!!  Even my 14 year old son, who usually isn't a big salad fan, had second helpings of the beautiful salad mix we brought home.  If you are a local, Bream Creek Farmer's Market is definitely worth a visit.  It's the first Sunday of every month from 9 - 1.  Maybe I'll see you there!