Christmas Bells

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Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, June 01, 2009

Protea "Pink Ice" flowering in my garden

When I moved to Robertson I was aware that the rich red basalt soils here are good for growing Protea plants and their relatives, such as the native Waratahs. The reason I knew this is that the plants I was intending to grow here, Peonies, grow really well in Monbulk, in the Dandenong Ranges (Victoria). Monbulk is famous for its rich red basalt soil - just as is Robertson (in NSW). Monbulk is home to Australia's largest specialist Protea propagation nursery "Proteaflora".

So, naturally, as I was establishing my garden here, I planted some of the members of the Protea tribe - Leucadendrons, Proteas, Banksias and Waratahs, and Grevilleas. This was largely an experiment, to see how they would grow, for some, especially the Grevilleas, are said to be very fussy about soil, preferring poor, low-nutrient soils. But most have done very well indeed. Some have exceeded all expectations, notably the Banksia "Giant Candles" which has had to be beheaded several times already to prevent it outgrowing its roots, and suffering wind damage.

The reason for the "caveat" about the soil is that very few members of the Proteaceae tribe grow here naturally - but members of this tribe of plants are very common just a few kilometres from here on the sandstone plateau below the Robertson range. It seems the reason is that the local rainforest plants survived so well, prior to European settlement and clearing of the land that the native Proteaceae never got a chance to "invade" the basalt. There are only two exceptions to this principle that I know of - a Helicia (of which there is but a single specimen left, apparently), and the tall rainforest tree Stenocarpus salignus.

One of these plants which has done particularly nicely, and grows only at a moderate rate, has turned out to be the popular hybrid Protea "Pink Ice". I bought my specimen Protea "Pink Ice" from Wariapendi Nursery at Colo Vale, NSW (near Mittagong), one of many nursery outlets for"Proteaflora" plants in NSW.

Here are the results:
A bud just starting to develop.
The black marks on the outer sheathing bracts are distinctive
from a related plant, Protea neriifolia, whjich is one of the parent plants to "Pink Ice".Here is the next stage of development of the bud.
It is very elongated overall, and narrow in the tip.
There are many black fibres in the tip of the bud, at this stage.
As the flower opens, the top broadens out.
Suddenly the profile of the flower changes, just as it opens.
It is almost "square cut" at the top, with masses of silvery fibres.
Here is a top view of the flower.
You can see what I mean about the silvery fibres.
This flower has not yet opened fully, but I would have to say that
this is my personal favourite stage of development of the flower.
There is one further stage of development, which is yet to occur. So I will show the fully opened flower shortly (when it opens). The flower becomes chalice-shaped.

11 comments:

mick said...

Lovely flowers and photos. It is fascinating how soil types change over the country and you obviously took account of this when you were planting. It sounds like the results are great. Here the soils are poor and acidic and of course plants must suit these conditions also.

swampythings said...

Hi Denis, I love Proteas and your photos do great justice to a beautiful flower. I was also interested in your garden description, it sounds spectacular. I once stayed with friends in Colac, Victoria who at that time were growing Proteaceae for cut flower sales. The variety of foliage and flowers in this family are quite amazing.
Cheers
Barbara

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick and Barbara
Thanks. My garden is not "spectacular" - perhaps the original concept was, but I forgot how fickle the human body is, and I needed two extended periods of hospitalisation, so the weeds took over when uncontrolled during two consecutive growing seasons.
Now I photograph the flowers which have survived - and I enjoy them even more for being so hardy. All the little things got swamped, unfortunately. But I still have plenty to appreciate.
Mick can you grow Proteas on the sand? They are quite successful in coastal NSW.
Barbara, you will have plenty of other things to grow instead. Of course, there are some tropical Proteaceae, but maybe not quite as showy as these South African ones. But the Stenocarpus and some Waratah relatives make up for that.
.
If there is one thing I have learnt since moving to Robbo it is precisely this point - grow plants which suit your soil.
Get that right and everything else falls into place.
.
Cheers

Denis

Michael said...

Hi Denis
My favourite plants are Proteaceae plants. I've grown Pink Ice before and it's one of the better hybrids. Just remember to prune your proteas after they flower and they will grow into nice round bushes with lots of flowers each year and live for a long time.
Sounds like you've got the perfect soil to plant all sorts of wonderful plants. Mine is heavy loam over clay that I had to improve for drainage.
I'm jealous.
Cheers Michael

Denis Wilson said...

Thanks Michael
Thanks for visiting.
.
The Proteaceae are very adaptable, but the Waratahs and Proteas do seem to love our soil, especially.
No doubt you can grow some of the drier country plants which would drown here in Robertson.
Cheers
Denis

Jonty said...

Great pictures. I have a pink ice that has been at stage 1 for months now and growing very slowly. How long did your buds take to develop?

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Jonty
Thanks for dropping by my Blog.
In cool weather, they can develop very slowly indeed.
Are you really growing Proteas in Somerset?
Hardly natural environment, as you probably realise.
Cheers
Denis

Jonty said...

Thanks Denis - I was growing outdoors all summer, and then moved it indoors (south facing big window full sun) in mid September when out side temperature dropped. It has a fairly steady temperature between 18 and 22 deg now, and the house is well ventilated. Bud is about 2cm long - nice and fat. Hue is turning a bit browner, which makes me concerned it is dead. I'm wondering if it would be better outside in a sheltered place.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Jonty
Browner hue does not sound good.
They're not often grown here as pot plants, as far as I know.
But then again, one has to try... even in England.
Best of luck with it.
Cheers
Denis

Anonymous said...

Hi Denis

I've just found your blog and it is really beautiful done. I love Protea as well as all of you do. Please continue providing information that you have done on this blog, so people like myself can have some benefit. Again the photos are just gorgeous!!

Cheers

Ponti

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Ponti
Thanks.
I grow a few Proteas, but I also grow our Australian native Waratahs, and many other related plants. Few are as showy as the Waratahs, though.
Denis