Are you like me — do you want flowers to greet you when you walk through the front door? This month, as if to spite the dreary cold of the outside world, the blue urn on my entrance hall table (click to enlarge) features a spring symphony of pink lilies, blue delphiniums, white snapdragons, and a very interesting trio of red Protea. I have two good reasons for using this exotic flower:
First, there is protea’s alluring appearance. Before bloom, its blossom resembles a fist, with finger-like petals tightly closed around a mysterious central cone. When the petals open — and they do this slowly — they reveal a spectacular core of stamens. The stamesn are remarkably soft, like plushest velvet you can imagine. Few cut-flower enthusiasts – including me – can resist the chance to “pet” the cone of a protea.
Next, the flower is incredibly long-lasting. It’s a good thing, too, because protea is incredibly expensive. Cut a quarter-inch from the stem each day, and protea will keep its looks for at least a month.
Protea is properly pronounced Pro-TAY-ah, although florists mangle it in a number of ways. The name comes from the minor Greek god Proteus, who was a servant of the very major god of the seas, Poseiden. Proteus could change his form at will. Yes, he was a “shape-shifter,” just like Sam Merlotte in the HBO series True Blood. Protea, too, has many different forms, each one more fascinating than the next.
If you live in zones 8 through 10, you can grow any number of shape-shifting Proteaceae right in your garden. But if you live where winters are cold, as I do, then its enjoyment must be restricted to your finest vase. Just three stems are all you need for a beautiful, springlike picture that includes lilies, delphiniums, and either white snapdragons or alstroemeria (another beautiful, long-lasting cut flower).
H/T Anne Schomaker, who procured and arranged the flowers for my entrance hall.
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