Do you like to stand out in a crowd? Do you have an eye for striking detail and are not afraid to go the non-traditional route on your wedding day? If so, the protea may be the flower for you. It’s been a while since we featured a wedding bloom and today we’re coming back with a bang with this one. You’ve probably seen these usually large, always interesting flower heads in bridal bouquets and table centerpieces but might not have known what they were (at least, I didn’t!) Named after the Greek god Proteus because of his ability to change form, proteas have a huge variety of shapes and colours. The genus originated in the Southern Hemisphere and is said to be one of the oldest flower types- dating from 300 million years ago. You can sort of tell this from their almost prehistoric, dramatic spiky look. The good news is, they’ve become very popular in the last few years for weddings and now common places like Fifty Flowers can have even up to ten or so different types.
The King Protea (national flower of South Africa) is the largest-headed bloom of the genus and makes a brilliant feature flower in bouquets. Spiked pink-white petals, sometimes with a silvery sheen, accent a white fuzzy centre dome making these a really striking addition to any arrangement. In fact they could easily hold their own as a one-flower bouquet.
The upwards and inward-sloping petals of the Queen Protea remind one of an artichoke (these two plants are actually related), whereas the Pink Ice Protea (below) has a soft downy coating to its leaves that some say make it look like the plant was dipped in ice. I think it has a really lovely delicate texture for a bridal bouquet, reminiscent of a thistle but obviously not as prickly!
The Pink Repens has a very tropical look with yellow based petals turning to dark pink at the tips and many spiky leaves suffusing the stems. The Pin Cushion Protea has a more delicate look with very many petal tendrils curling upwards covering the flower’s head, and can be either red or yellow.
The petals of the Blushing Bride Protea (below) can be white or pinkish white and open to reveal a blush centre, hence the name. The pointed petals give this flower a feathery look which makes it a beautiful accent flower in bouquets. The White Protea has a fuzzy white bloom with black-tipped petals.
Most types of proteas are available year round such as the King, Queen, Pink Ice and Pink Repens, but some types have limited production months. The Blushing Bride is available May to March but it is possible to get Australian imports from July to September, while Pincushion Proteas are pretty much only available August through May.
Handling & Care
Bear in mind the weight of these flowers when planning your displays. You’ll need a substantial, possibly quite heavy vessel for table arrangements and for a bouquet make sure you have strong floral tape and wire, and wide ribbon to cover it. You’ll also need a strong pair of shears as the stems can be difficult to cut. Before arranging, cut the tip from the stems and rinse your vessel with some vinegar to kill any bacteria that might invite stagnant water. Changing the water at least once a day will also help. These large flowers can generate a bit of heat so will do better placed in a well-ventilated location. Proteas are generally long lasting and can actually last for up to a few weeks before they start to fade. They can also be dried out afterwards to prolong their prettiness a bit!
After removing the flowers from their water, leave the blooms to dry out hanging upside down in a dark, well ventilated area for a couple of weeks. When they are completely dried out you can arrange them as you wish. You can also dry flowers arranged as they were by removing the water from their original vase and leaving them to dry out naturally. Any vibrant hues will be replaced by softer tones in the finished dried proteas.
Particularly appropriate for weddings, the protea symbolises transformation, diversity and courage.
So, what do you think? Can you see yourself using proteas in your wedding? I’m a little sorry I didn’t know about them before my own- I think they’re really pretty!