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Your bouquet this month derives its name (Protea) from flowers native to one of the Southernmost populated areas of the world, South Africa. The elements used are Pink Minks and Pink Ice Protea (and their foliage), accented by additional Safari Sunset greenery.

The Protea for these bouquets are grown on the cool wind-swept slopes of Mount Haleakala on the Island of Maui, the Southern flanks of Mauna Loa on the Big Island in Hawaii, or on the coastal mountains of Southern California. These areas replicate the cool conditions found in their native South African habitat. Because our growing areas are located in the  Northern Hemisphere, the Proteas bloom in the opposite time of year than their African ancestors.

Most Protea flowers are large and do not have petals, which explains their rather tough exterior. The colorful parts are the bracts, not the petals. The bracts surround the tiny fluffy true flowers found in the center of each flower head.

One of the best characteristics of the Protea is its well-known ability to stay healthy and happy after being cut. Being hardy flowers from a cool climate, they also travel well in the winter months — making them an ideal bouquet for this time of year in the United States. You can anticipate longer-than-expected beauty from these flowers if you follow the care tips at the right.

The genus Protea (named for the Greek God Proteus, who could assume many shapes at will) has over 90 species.

Actually a family of shrubs having unusual and beautiful flowers, the extended protea family encompasses many different members. They are extraordinarily colorful and many admirers say these blooms are reminiscent of sea urchins.

Native to an area where acidic, nutrient-poor soils are found, they thrive in well-drained soil. Protea need not only a well-aerated soil, but also a cool root system, which is vitally important. Somewhat difficult to grow, they are susceptible to root rot.

Today they are grown widely in South Africa, Hawaii and Australia, where breeding programs have developed some extraordinarily beautiful examples of this unique flower. They are now also harvested in southern California.

A “social plant,” in their natural habitat they are found growing very close to one another. This closeness provides protection from harsh winds, keeps the soil cool, and prevents evaporation. Protea family members are used extensively in exotic arrangements.

Nectar-feeding birds are drawn like magnets to the Protea, which is why they are found in so many of the world’s botanical gardens.

SPECIAL CARE AND HANDLING OF THE PROTEA BOUQUET 

1)  We recommend immersing your Protea Bouquet in room temperature water for a few minutes when you first unwrap it.

2)  When arranging, remove all foliate that will fall below the water line of the vase. Cut off one-quarter to one-half inch from each stem, at an angle, being careful to avoid damage. Use a very sharp knife, with the cut made under running water or submerged in water. Immediately place the stems in the water-filled container.

3)  In all cases, the water should be just barely warm, a slightly higher temperature than your own body temperature. For longest vase life, replace the water every two to three days, and re-cut all stems.

4)  If a stem appears to need a little lift, revive it by recutting the stem (again, under warm water), and then laying the entire flower in that same warm water. When refreshed (about thirty minutes), you can return it to your arrangement.

5)  Keep flowers away from drafts and sources of heat. Do not refrigerate. These flowers prefer a cool, dark environment at night.

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Tracie Burket
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