Sunday, August 30, 2015

XVII International Protea Association Conference

With the beautiful backdrop of Western Australia’s unique flora, and coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the world-renowned Kings Park, the XVII International Protea Association Conference held in Perth was truly inspiring. The educational programs were rich and varied, with speakers from around the globe discussing new ornamental species, breeding, cultivation, post-harvest handling and marketing plus exciting new developments in the Proteaceae and Australian wildflower industries.

The first two conference days included presentations by four highly acclaimed keynote speakers and concurrent sessions focused on Proteaceae and new ornamental crops. The third and fourth days were devoted to visiting commercial wildflower farms and nurseries, a leading wildflower exporter, and a guided tour of Kings Park, including a look ‘behind the scenes’ at the nursery and research programs.

Commercial Wildflower

Kings Park and Botanical Garden

However, the conference wasn’t only about learning – there was plenty of time to network with fellow flowers farmers from around the world.

The XVIII International Protea Association Conference is tentatively scheduled for August 2017 in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Business of Banksia

There’s only one spot in the world where all 79 species of Banksia in existence grow and that’s in Kevin and Cathy Collins’ delightful five-hectare garden in Mount Barker, Western Australia. Kevin, who is also known as the ‘Banksia Man’, owns and runs The Banksia Farm in this sleepy wine-growing region of Australia. Kevin claims, “This was never a planned business, it’s a hobby gone mad.”

Kevin educates everyone from visiting school kids to botanists. “I don’t have a day’s botanical training,” he says. “I was just over in America lecturing on it.” He is the co-author of books on botany and is valued as an expert on Western Australia’s wildflowers in particular. As well as holding the most recently found banksia, the garden also has many of the world’s species of dryandra, which are closely related.

Kevin says the climate of Mount Barker has helped them grow all 79 species of banksia. The other thing that assisted them is the huge variety of soils. “We have everything from pH 4.5 to 6.5, and by moving them around we were able to mix and match and grow them all.”

Bronze Menziesii 

Oak Leaved Banksia 




Coastal Banksia 

Kevin is quite animated as he explains why he loves banksias. “Many are killed by fire, and yet they’ve been around for 50-70 million years, he says. “They’re so diverse. Some need fire and follow-up rains to release seeds. And historically they’ve been used for so much.”

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Wild Flowers of the Western State

Western Australia is one of the richest wildflower areas in the world. Its great wealth lies not only in the large number of different species to be found but also in the great diversity of the size, shape, color, texture and form between individual flowers.

Wildflower Displays in Kings Park and Botanical Garden

There are over 8000 native plants in Western Australia with another 800 that have been introduced from other states or countries. In addition, a high percentage of native species are endemic, and found only in this part of the world. This is particularly so in the southwest portion of the state where it is estimated between 75% - 85% of the known wildflowers grow only within this small region and nowhere else on earth. Many of the flowers can truly be described as ‘unique’. The Kangaroo Paws, Bottlebrush, Grevilleas, Isopogons, Everlastings, Dryandras, and many of the Banksias and Waxflowers are botanical curiosities attracting international scientific interest.

From late summer through early spring (August and October), numerous exhibitions and festivals are held throughout the state by local enthusiasts to showcase and celebrate the wildflowers of the particular region. These festive events provide a fun and colorful way for both locals and visitors to gain an appreciation of the diversity of Western Australia’s flora.

A Taste of Chitterinng Festival Flowers

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gum Tree Flowers & Nuts

The gum tree or ‘eucalyptus’ is one of the most recognized Australian plants. It is no surprise that its lush green foliage has become an extremely popular addition to garlands, wreaths, bouquets and even large scale floral displays. However, did you know that many varieties of gum produce attractive flowers as well? Eucalyptus flowers are not typical flowers though, as these showy blooms are made up mostly of anthers and styles, rather than petals. This makes gum flowers much more delicate than many other cut flowers. Usually, these flowers are found in white, pink, yellow, and reddish shades. And, in most species, the buds appear in clusters on a single stem that develops on the axil of the leaves.

The cone-shaped fruits that develop are called gum nuts, which have valves that allow the seeds to be shed. These wonderful nuts come in several shapes and sizes and add unique color and texture to designs.

What to look for:

  • Flowers that are 1/2 open and fluffy looking.
  • Avoid wilted flowers.

Flower Care:

  1. Keep cool and out of direct sun light.
  2. Strip leaves from the bottom half of each stem. 
  3. Re-cut at least 1/2” off each stem and place in cold water.
  4. Use a preservative as this will keep flowers looking fresh.
  5. Replace vase water with fresh preservative.

Fun Facts:

  • Also known as gum trees, for the sticky sap that oozes out of the bark.
  • The name “Eucalyptus” came from the Greek words, “eu” meaning well and “kalyptos,” meaning covered, referring to the bud cap that initially covers the flower.
  • Eucalyptus is valued for its fast-growing wood.
  • Eucalyptus trees are among the tallest trees in the world.
  • The wood is commonly used to make digeridoos, a traditional instrument from Australia.
  • All parts of the plant can be used to make fabric dyes; colours range from yellow and orange through to green, tan, chocolate and red.