Spring and early summer are so busy here! Every year I lament the fact that Christmas falls in our busy season in the Southern Hemisphere. How nice it must be to have Christmas in the quieter months! There are definitely some benefits of a summer Christmas though - fresh berries and stone fruit and summery tropical fruits - pavlova drenched with summer berries, long days (with daylight savings) and the long relaxing twilight, trips the beach …. ok, I take it back. I love Christmas in summer! But it sure is a busy time of year.
I can't imagine Christmas time without flowers either. Leucospermums, commonly called Pincushions are in full bloom here in late spring and into summer. They have become synonymous with summer for me. I am picking trailer-loads of them at the moment and so I thought I'd show off a few.
Leucospermums are from the Protea family. They are a South African plant, as many proteas are, but are closely related to many Australian native plants. The variety above is a hybrid called Mardi Gras. The buds are silvery and hairy and are actually a composite of many tiny flowers seeming to create a single flower head.
As they open the colour is revealed.
|L. Mardi Gras|
|L. Mardi Gras|
The "pins" from which they get their common name, "pincushion", are yellow in the Mardi Gras variety. They emerge from the the special petal called a tepal. When the style pops out the tepal curls inward revealing another colour, in this case bright red. The pins begin to emerge from the outer edge of the bloom first and work their way in to the centre until all the pins are sitting out.
Pincushions flower over a relatively short period, but it is quite intense, with the bushes being covered with flowers.
Fully grown Mardi Gras bushes are laden with flowers in early December.
The Mardi Gras are usually the first variety to flower at Swallows Nest Farm. They are closely followed by these gorgeous red Pincushions called Scarlet Ribbons. I love the colouring of these flowers.
When they first begin to open, the pins are a salmon pink and the hairy tepals give a purplish tinge to the overall look of the flower.
But as they open more, it becomes obvious why the variety was named "Scarlet Ribbons" as the inside of the tepals is a rich scarlet red.
|Fresh Wreath by Swalllows Nest Farm with Scarlet Ribbons Pincushions|
Of course, this is great for Christmas time! Leucaspermums are great in fresh wreaths.
|Mixed Pincusion bunches for Christmas|
Christmas bunches often look like this! Bright summery colours.
The next Pincushion to flower here is the orange Leucospermum Cordifolium, with bright orange flowers and long slender stems.
This variety tend to flower over a more extended period of time so we get to enjoy them for longer. I love the little yellow stigma on the end of each style, glowing like little lights.
The Cordifolium isn't hairy like the other varieties I've mentioned, and the overall shape is more rounded. You can see from the photo above how the Leucospermum is clearly related to some of our Australian plants from the protea family. Grevilleas flower in much the same way, with bundles of small "flowers" arranged to create what we call the flowerhead. And the styles and tepals are similar too.
Cordifoliums are such a happy flower! Those bright yellow stigma at the end of the pins really glow don't they!
|Fresh Christmas Wreath with Cordifolium, Wax Flower, Gum Nuts and Leucodendrons|
I love the citrusy colour combinations that you can create with Pincushions - so fresh and summery.
Our last variety to flower, beginning towards the end of December and continuing into January, is the gorgeous Leucospermum Fountain. It's a different shape to the others, being more flattened and open. It has a softer, subtle orange colouring but with the purplish tinge to the tepals, like the Scarlet Ribbon variety.
You can see the difference in colouring here, between the Fountain on the left, and the Cordifolium on the right (theres a Mardi Gras in the middle there too). The softer apricot of the Fountain is really appealing and great to mix with purples, pinks and soft blue green eucalyptus foliage.
The colour of Fountain gets richer as they age.
Fountain can continue to flower even into February here. I used it in a February wedding this year. The bridesmaids were wearing apricot and the Fountains really looked great!
Pincushions, or Leucospermums are a great summer flower, and really create a summery Christmas feel. Enjoy them when they're available!