The beautiful colors of fall have finally arrived outside, and so has the rich red and pink of the Hawaiian sunset with this month’s bouquet. At the heart of this exotic, yet durable arrangement are two very different varieties of Hawaiian Proteas - Pink Ice Latifolia and Safari Sunset. Although both Proteas, you'll quickly note that these two flowers are quite different from each other. Some say that the pink hue of the Pink Ice, the larger of the two colorful bract varieties, is reminiscent of a Hawaiian sunset. It is harmonized with the fiery shades of the Safari Sunset Proteas, a gorgeous hybrid whose color and texture have made it one of the most popular Proteas of all time. The pink tone in the Pink Ice Latifolia paired with the deep red wine-colored Safari Sunset, is bound to transport you to a sun-drenched beach in Maui. As a final touch to complement these unusual flowers, we've included accents of Mill Wheat to bring home the fall season. When dried, the bouquet is every bit as stunning as the first day you arrange it in the vase, and when mixed with other dried flowers and pine cones, provides an excellent accent for table centerpieces or holiday wreaths. We're quite sure that you will be proud to display this unique ensemble.
You will find yourself simply admiring the architecture, textures and stunning pink and red hues of this truly ancient ensemble of flora. Also consider that the Proteas that stand gracefully before you, do so now as they did for the dinosaurs. It may be difficult to believe, but these flowers have been gracing the land for eons, having had over 100 million years to develop into a breathtaking diversity of shapes, sizes, hues, and textures. Then again, perhaps it won't surprise you or your guests that these beauties are from one of the oldest flowering plants on Earth. Visitors to the Kula Vista Protea Farm in Maui, Hawaii often refer to the fields of Pink Ice, King Proteas, Golden Emperors, and other varieties, as dinosaur like. There is something in their very form that seems to clue admirers in to the fact that these flowers are not your typical variety of flowering house plant. Other guests have made comments such as “Star Wars flowers” and “out of this world!” These are some of the remarks people make when seeing Protea flowers for the first time, instantly aware that these gorgeous plants appear to be from another time (or even another world, as some seem to be convinced). You and any guests will certainly find yourselves engaged in conversation about these amazing blooms. And even kids will undoubtedly take an extra interest once you tell them that they're looking at the same flowers that the dinosaurs once beheld. Now how many other bouquets can you think of that have such a cross-generational appeal?
Classification of plants is a daunting task to say the least. With over 1,400 types of Proteas alone, and more than 25,000 naturally occurring species of orchids, consider the overwhelming volume of plant life in this world! (Including hybrids, there are in fact over 100,000 varieties of orchids!) Finding appropriate titles while naming botanicals was a knack of Linnaeus, the father of classification and botanical nomenclature. Back in the first half of the 18th century, Linnaeus put this talent to work and bestowed upon this months featured family of flowering plants the name Protea, named after the Greek god Proteus. In Greek mythology Proteus is the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. Proteus knew all things past, present, and future, and was able to change his shape at will to avoid being asked questions about the future. Each day at noon, Proteus would rise from the sea and sleep in the shade of the rocks on the island of Pharos in Egypt. Persons wishing to learn the future had to catch hold of him at that time and hold on as he assumed dreadful shapes, including those of wild animals and terrible monsters. If all his ruses proved unavailing, Proteus resumed his usual form and told the truth. The Protea was named after this Greek god, because this family offers an astonishing diversity, comprising some 50 genera and more than 1,000 species worldwide. And though you might not think that you are familiar with anything related to these prehistoric beauties, here's an interesting tidbit: Macadamia nuts are from a Proteaceae!
Interestingly, genera belonging to this family all have the same basic flower, yet are dramatically different in form. These colorful flowers range in size from two to twelve inches in diameter, and they come in just about every color but blue. They can be found growing on both small and large bushes, about three feet to over fifteen feet, and others that have underground stems crawl on the ground. In recent years, the Protea Pink Ice has become a most popular cultivar. It has medium sized blooms of Salmon Pink with a silvery white sheen.
When properly maintained, these flowers will last for over 100 million years! Ok, that might not be an accurate figure outside of their historical (or should we say pre-historical) context, but now that we have your attention, here are some tips for caring for your Proteas that should keep them healthy for up to 3 weeks!
Upon arrival, re-cut the stems one inch. Usually it's better to use a sharp knife, rather than scissors, as you'll get a cleaner cut that will not crush the water pathways. Also, it's better to do this under water so there won't be any air blockages that would otherwise shorten the life of your flowers considerably.
Keep them in a well-lit area for 1 to 1½ hours to let them recover from the ordeal of traveling.
Once they've had some recovery time, you can make an arrangement or two. Be sure to keep the stem leaves out of the water to extend their vase life. Use the fresh flower food as directed. Remember these flowers like light 24 hours a day, but keep them out of the direct sunlight unless they are also provided with excellent ventilation, and they will keep their fresh look much longer. Note: Giving your Proteas too little light can result in leaf blackening!
Avoid rough handling by crushing, breaking or damaging the foliage and stem, as this will release tannins into the water that also could turn the leaves black. Again, use running water whenever possible to rinse off any tannins that may be released during stem cutting.
If at any time the water gets even slightly cloudy, this means bacteria are destroying your flowers! Immediately replace the water. Wash off the bacteria from the stems under running water and re-cut.
Make sure you add water as needed, and change the water every 4 to 5 days, taking care to trim stems as described above each time.
While Proteas as a family do live up to the reputation of their shape-shifting namesake, there is one thing that they all have in common. They are very long lasting. One of the special qualities of Proteas is that they dry beautifully, and are thus gifts that can last forever. When the blooms have reached the end of their fresh life, just remove the water and put them in an out of the way place for about three weeks. For best results, hang them individually upside down. Or, if you want to continue admiring your bouquet through the drying process, you can let them dry naturally in an arrangement, but don't lay them on a flat surface or in a pile or they will assume an unnatural shape.
Usually Proteas will dry without shedding leaves or petals. They will continue to impress in your dried flower arrangements and they will last for many years. Some of their color will remain, but mostly their original hues will shift to nostalgic shades of tan.
What do floral professionals look for in the perfect flower? It should be colorful, interesting, long lasting, easy to handle, and have a good vase life. The remarkable Pink Ice and the eye-catching Safari Sunset are two of the very few flowers that can meet all of these expectations!
"What do I do with that?" is a common response from anyone who has never arranged similar flowers. Granted, these flowers don't complement sweet peas and other more delicate flowers, but designers who swear by them say they are the most versatile flowers in their mix! "It's a filler flower, a focal flower and a line flower all in one," says David Strong, AIFD, of Piano Flowers and Gifts in Memphis, Tennessee. Strong has been using exotic flowers for about ten years, mainly in his commercial and high-end work, "It's not for the meat and potatoes market, but it's great if you're trying to go after the higher-end market or just make yourself stand out." The diversity you can add to your floral pallet by using the Proteaceae family is simply unlimited. And if the extended vase life of these flowers and foliages, usually ten to fifteen days, is not good enough for you well then, you can dry them and keep them for years to come.
Today, the family of Proteaceae is best represented in South Africa along the south and south-western coastal mountain ranges. There are some 329 known species of Proteaceae in South Africa, including Protea, your Pink Ice flowers, and Leucadendron, your Safari Sunset flowers. In Africa the flowers were mostly harvested in the wild, but in recent years many flower plantations have sprung up for commercial growing. However, not all species are commercially viable for one reason or another.
While most of the cultivated forms of Protea originated in a very select climactic area of South Africa, Proteas are also grown commercially in Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Spain, South America, Hawaii and California. Safari Sunset was first produced commercially in New Zealand and actually constitutes 90% of annual production. With such a large commercial potential, various U.S. growers realized that there was a need to develop Protea growing fields closer to the states. In the late 1970's, two horticulturists familiar with the cultivating requirements of these plants saw the potential to grow Proteas on the western slopes of Mt. Haleakala on the island of Maui. Initially, the Maui growers who picked up on the idea were looking for a tax write-off on their residential acreage and felt Protea would be a low-cost, low-labor crop that would make them into legitimate farmers. It is true that Proteas are exceptionally low-maintenance and in fact, have been a favorite of landscapers for years for this reason. However, propagating Proteas from seed requires a specialized knowledge of the plant. In their natural habitat, the shrubby Protea plants and small trees are very susceptible to brush fires. The burned off plants will, typically, quickly re-sprout and grow. Like some of our native pinecones, the Protea cone-like structure often needs high heat from a brush fire to release the seeds before they will germinate. Some have adapted to the point where the seeds need to be coated with creosote (smoke) in order to germinate. The rich volcanic soils and ideal temperatures at the 1,000-metre level of Mt. Haleakala make the site a natural growing area for many of the Protea species. One plant can produce as many as 200 blooms a year and they are harvested when they are one-third to one-half open.
So, the next time you are in Maui or one of the other producing areas, have a look around and see if you can find some live Proteas. A field of these millennia-enduring beauties is truly something to behold. Just ask the dinosaurs!
Start with either type of Protea. Cut the other Protea a bit shorter to form a focal area. The green Millet wheat can be added last. For a fuller look, cascade some to the front and at an angle on the other side.
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