Proteas in New Zealand

One of the neat things about exploring the plant world is finding things that you never would have seen at home. Back in the Pacific Northwest, proteas are few and far between. Large and mature specimens are even more difficult to find. I tried my hand at growing one. It ended up getting a small dose of fertilizer that had a bit too much phosphorous, and very promptly died.

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Protea aurea ‘Goodwood Red’

New Zealand, like Australia, presents nearly perfect growing conditions for proteas. I don’t think I can pinpoint exactly what it is that makes this corner of the world grow everything so well. Though I’m guessing it has something to do with the natural  drainage, mild temperatures, sunlight, and moisture levels. You know… the basics of plant life.

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Leucadendron salignum ‘Fireglow’

The Auckland Botanic Garden has a very impressive protea and leucadendron collection wedged in the back area of their African Garden, right before it turns into Podocarp Valley. Podocarp Valley is seriously wild, and I think has begun to take over the back side of the African Garden. I managed to hike into the back end of the garden, and found plants that looked like they hadn’t been tended in years. Many, if not most, of these monster plants were proteas.

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Near the front of the African Garden, the plants were all well maintained.  I think this garden is so low maintenance in front, maybe they forget that it needs work? The front is of course full of aloe, eucomis and kniphofia. Dry gardening, very tidy looking.

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Red makes for a good looking aloe.
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Portulacaria afra, aka Elephant Bush or Spekboom

Even so, there were so many proteas that there ended up being plenty of them towards the front of the garden that I could contain in mostly a single shot. I never realized just how big proteas can get. Some of them here reached 8 feet tall and much larger in width. The largest had trunks instead of stems! They were literally trees.

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Protea nerifolia ‘Ruby’
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Protea laurifolia ‘Rose Mink’
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Protea repens ‘Alba’
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Protea repens ‘Alba’

 

I’m not sure what Leucadendron strobilinum ‘Water Lily’ will look like once it’s blooming, but I’m guessing it will look just like a water lily. Just guessing. Whoever named this one is probably a lot like me.

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Leucadendron strobilinum ‘Waterlily’
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Leucadendron strobilinum ‘Waterlily’

I’ll probably end up trying to grow a few more proteas and leucadendrons, as should everyone. I may or may not succeed, but that isn’t the point. If I am able to keep them alive long enough to look good and even bloom, then I’m sure I’ll feel a sense of achievement. If not, then I’ll be able to appreciate the plants that I can grow that much more. Really, it’s the process of growing a plant that makes it enjoyable, isn’t it? There is no end game. Just appreciate the experience, and remember that you can have fun even when you make mistakes and lose plants.

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