Spring is here, along with the promise of warmer days, which, undoubtedly, most of us are looking forward to. During the spring and summer months, we at The Fresh Cut Flower of the Month Club often select flowers that grow well in tropical climates so that they will arrive at your door happy and healthy. This month’s outstanding exotic bouquet will bring to mind cool evening breezes and glorious beach sunsets.
These ancient beauties, which actually existed as far back as primitive times, are now considered to be the fashionable, chic flower! With their flamboyant looks, they make a big splash wherever they go, and they can be arranged to suit any occasion. Dramatic, striking, and breathtaking, they add color and texture to make a pretty powerful statement.
Your eye-catching bouquet includes Vlam and Veldfire Pincushion Proteas, Latifolia Proteas, tri-color Hala leaves, a fan of palm, and an accent of Curly Willow—a glowing display that will certainly get lots of attention, no matter how you arrange it. Consider making several arrangements with just a few flowers. It doesn’t take many of these spectacular flowers to make an impact!
Research into the early history of plant life has shown that the ancestors of today’s Protea existed 300 million years ago—pretty difficult for most imaginations to even grasp! Plant life studies indicate that they probably originated in South Africa along the southern coastal mountain ranges and on the southern coast of Australia. As the story goes, when the southern hemisphere was combined into one continent, the family of Protea was growing along Dinosaur Highway 101. When the hemisphere began to break up into continents and drift apart, Proteas shifted to Africa and South America, while their cousins, banksias, moved to Australia. However, many still wonder why Protea is native to so many areas. There are over 1,400 different species of this diverse family identified so far, although only about 150 are commercially used.
Flowers come in many forms, from tiny dwarf flowers to shrubs, and even trees. Their blooms range in size from two to twelve inches in diameter. As a family, proteaceae is so diverse that it defied classification until 1735, when the Swedish botanist Linneaus dared to give this family a name. Linneaus, inspired by Homer’s Iliad, named this family Proteaceae after the Greek God Proteus. According to Greek mythology, Proteus was a sea god who had the ability to reshape himself into any form – hence, an appropriate moniker for this treasure, which presents a breathtaking array of shapes, sizes, hues, and textures.
Proteas became quite a novelty in San Diego and Santa Barbara about 40 years ago, when horticulturist Howard Asper first successfully propagated them. Thriving in the California soil, Protea flowers became a booming industry and were eventually introduced to Hawaii. Both regions so closely approximate the native climate and soil of this family that growing them has been, and continues to be, a complete success.
Proteas are grown commercially in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Spain, South America, Hawaii, and California. Even though Protea flowers are more of a Mediterranean-grown flower than a tropical, Hawaiian growers have done the best job marketing them—so much so, that much of the floral industry in the United States believes Protea is a tropical flower that originated in Hawaii!
They all are. The yellow Veldfire Pincushion Protea is called a composite flower, meaning it is in a class of plants considered to be highly evolved. Veldfires have multiple flowers forming one cluster on the end of each stem. To some, their distinctive head resembles—you guessed it—a pincushion. However, the mass and shape of the flower heads, combined with their delicate radiating florets, give them the look and feel of the sun. The orange Vlam Cordifolium Protea is another variety. And, to confuse you even further, both of them are typed, and often referred to, as Leucospermum. This information is going to really impress your Garden Club! The stunning Latifolia Eximia is one of the easiest Proteas to grow, as well as one of the hardiest (which is probably why it’s easy to grow). Also known as Pink Ice, its petals are sturdy and grow up and around a composite flowering head. Some say the pink hue of this flower is reminiscent of a Hawaiian sunset. Paired with the fiery shades of the Pincushion Proteas, this bouquet is bound to take you to a sundrenched beach in the Mediterranean or, if you insist, Maui.
To expand your floral horizons, we have surrounded your antediluvian Proteas with Tri-Colored Hala leaves (Pandanus tectorius), and these truly are from the sun-drenched state of Hawaii. There are many varieties of Hala. In fact, you could plant a very interesting garden composed entirely of different looking Hala plants. Today this plant is prized for its colorful stripes, the pattern it lends to arrangements, and the creative things you can do with its leaves. For instance, put a small slit in the middle of the leaf and poke the tip of it through the slit. Or you can shred the leaf for another interesting effect. The fruit of the Hala plant very closely resembles a pineapple and was a common fruit enjoyed by the early Hawaiian natives. Hala has been gainfully employed for centuries in Hawaii as a fiber and a dye used in traditional crafts and customs. Blankets, or “kapas,” were woven out of the Hala leaves and were decorated and adorned with the dye from the fruit of the tree. Leis were also fashioned from the fruit. We included a palm frond for contrasting lines and to reinforce the ambiance of warm tropics and sandy beaches. The crowning touch of Curly Willow, with its driftwood-shaped curves, adds to the coastal feel and completes a breathtaking and exotic bouquet to enjoy as you watch the summer sunsets begin.
Poseidon, the omnipresent God of all Seas and Earthquakes (the guy with the trident) was a temperamental, aggressive, and often violent god. When he struck the ground with his trident, the Earth trembled and split open. When he struck the sea, waves rose mountains high and the winds howled, wrecking ships and drowning those who lived on the shores. Occasionally, Poseidon was in a calm mood. Then he would stretch out his hand to still the sea and raise new lands out of the water. That didn’t happen nearly as often as the earthquakes and tsunamis.
Amphitrite, his Queen, and Poseidon had only one son, Triton (the man with a fishtail instead of legs), but everyone says that Proteus (officially the son of Cronus and Rhea) was really fathered by Poseidon. The important thing was that Proteus knew all things past, present, and future. Proteus liked to hang out on the Island of Pharos, off the coast of Egypt, and herd Poseidon’s seals—another telling clue. Everyone was always pestering him to forecast the lottery numbers, so Proteus would change his shape at will to avoid them, but sometimes he liked to tease them.
Everyone knew that each day at noon Proteus would rise from the sea and sleep in the shade of the rocks on the island of Pharos with Poseidon’s seals lying around him. If anyone was clever enough to catch him, Proteus would assume dreadful shapes—tigers, dragons and bears, and terrible monsters. If anyone was fearless and persistent enough to hang on to him, Proteus quit his act and calmed down (like Poseidon did occasionally—genetics perchance?), resumed his usual form, and told the truth. What a guy!
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