Ask Ella: Exploring The Alien World of Protea
Ask Ella is a recurring Garden Collage feature where we ask our in-house florist, Ella Stavonsky, about the history of, origin, and maintenance that goes into some of the most intriguing flowers on the market today. This column is dedicated exclusively to common and rare varieties of flowers you’re likely to find at your local market. This week, we spotlight protea, the bizarre, almost primordial flower native to the southern hemisphere.
Sometimes charmingly called sugarbushes, protea is a plant native to South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand (and one we love using in bouquets). They are one of the oldest flowers on earth and the name “protea” comes from ancient Greek legend, named for Proteus, an all-knowing old man of the sea.
In bouquets, protea adds an exotic, otherworldly element, but also looks beautiful as a single stem in a simple, thin glass container. To care for proteas, make sure you clip the stem each day (about an inch) and replace the water each day.
Protea is also beautiful dried and can be a long lasting element of decor in the home. You can start drying protea right away, depending on how open you would like the flower to be. If the stem has been in water though, just be sure to clip off any damp parts. Unlike other flowers, protea should not be dried hanging upside down, as this can cause some of the more delicate parts of the flower to fall off. Instead, lay protea on its side in a dark, dry place with plenty of air flow.