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Protea in the Garden

By PATSY HOLLIS | Not far from the Japanese Garden in the Royal
Tasmanian Botanical Gardens is a section devoted to proteas and
leucadendrons, flowers from Africa that were first seen in Europe in
the early years of the 17th century and described as "curious
botanical novelties" for their dazzling array of sizes, shapes and
colours.

Not so curious to our eyes because proteas and leucadendrons are from the family Porteaceae, which is confined to the southern hemisphere and includes the banksia, telopea, hakea and chilean fire bush.

… the leucadendrons, blooming best in spring, show off their psychedelic petals all year round …

This garden is afire with the extravagantly furled and feathery flowers of the proteas for many months of the year, at their most brilliant in winter, while the leucodendrons, blooming best in spring, show off their psychedelic petals all year round — lime green and lemon, rich creamy gold with scarlet, the brightest of reds and lipstick pinks.

Proteas and leucadendrons are easily grown in home gardens but you must give them freely draining soil — the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden mixed soil specially for these beds.

Here they are have been left without pruning, which means as they grow top heavy they topple over and make interesting twisted shapes. “Just like they grow in the wild,” South African visitors exclaim. But if at home you want to keep proteas a comfortable shape and height, prune from when the bush is a metre high, which also gives constant new growth. Never fertilise, pinebark mulch is enough.

Most spectacular of the species is the king protea, now the national flower of South Africa, with flowers up to 30cm across.

Most spectacular of the species is the king protea, now the national flower of South Africa, with flowers up to 30cm across. Pink pointed outer bracts covered with silky hairs surround the central mound of lilac flowers. Even so it has many rivals as Allan Moult’s photography reveals — all shot in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.

BOTANIC GARDENS : Introduction | Japanese Garden | Proteas