John Blake spoke at the April general meeting about growing proteas. John and his wife, Valerie, grow these magnificent flowers on their four-hectare property at Harcourt. They initially began growing proteas in Castlemaine in the 1980’s eventually moving to the higher slopes of Mount Alexander where fertile, good draining soil and being above the frost line has contributed to the production of top quality flowers for local and export markets. John and Valerie also grow leucadendrons and leucospermums, also long-lasting South African flowers much prized for floral arrangements. John advised that they cannot provide enough flowers to Japan where proteas are in high demand.
John brought along many beautiful varieties of proteas that were passed around and much admired. In our climate, he suggested that good varieties to grow include Protea Pink Ice, Protea Repens and King Proteas. They should be planted in free draining soil, in mounded beds. Once established they do not require watering or fertilising. Because of their root structure they are susceptible to phytophthora, a fungal disease. Proteas are pruned in order to produce many flowering stems. It takes 4 or 5 years for a plant to have a good quantity of long-stemmed flowers but once established plants can have many blooms during the flowering season. Cut flowers can last up to four weeks. Trim the stems and then change the water every 3 or 4 days.
Club members enjoyed John’s talk and were delighted to be able to choose flowers to take home with a generous suggestion from John that a small donation be made towards to the Club’s finances.