Proteas are often admired in floral arrangements and are bought for their ability to last several weeks in a vase.
Because they are related horticulturally to a large group of Australian native plants, including banksias, grevilleas and waratahs, they require similar growing conditions. They have a low tolerance for artificial fertilisers. Applications of superphosphate will kill proteas.
However, they require magnesium, and this can be applied as Epsom salts, scattered over the root areas and then watered in well. Spring is an ideal time in which to do this.
Proteas produce a range of flower styles and colours, on plants that vary from quite small through to large shrubs. Flower colours are predominately shades of pink, although whites, creams and yellows are also available. Flowers are produced from May through to mid-September.
An application of mulch will benefit a protea plant, although mushroom compost should be avoided as it contains fertilisers high in phosphorous. It is important to keep the mulch away from the stem as proteas are susceptible to infections such as collar rot, if the lower stems are buried in moist mulch. Mulching will help to avoid the production of weeds below the plant, as proteas resent having their roots disturbed.
Pruning a protea enables the gardener to shape the plant, and this can initially be done through the cutting of flowers for indoor use. Tip pruning in spring and summer will help establish a good shape in a young plant.
More mature specimens should be pruned immediately after flowering, leaving about 10cm of healthy stem. This will encourage the plant to produce shoots from above the cut and these will produce flowers in the following season.
Leucadendrons and leucospermums should also be pruned in the same manner. A selection of proteas might include: "Pink Ice", King protea and Pink mink, all growing to 2 metres, Peach protea and Queen protea, growing about 1.5 metres and Honey protea, which grows to 2.4 metres in height.
Peach leaf curl is a major fungal problem, mainly affecting peach trees, although nectarine and almond trees can also be affected.
This plant disease becomes evident during the warmer months through thickened, swollen and distorted leaves that have pinkish or green blisters on their surfaces.
In addition to the unsightly look of the leaves that the disease causes, it may lead to the tree becoming defoliated, with a subsequent reduction in productivity levels. Fruits may become shrivelled and then harden, taking on a mummified appearance. These should be removed from the tree and disposed of in the garbage.
Once the symptoms appear, it is too late to take control measures. These must be taken soon, before the new leaves first appear. As the buds begin to swell and the new season's growth is imminent, the trees should be sprayed with lime sulphur or Bordeaux, a commercially available product.
One of the main reasons for spraying at this time is that the fungal spores of the disease winter over in crevices of tree bark and around the buds.
Therefore, it is necessary to wait until these areas are free of leaves so that the spray will penetrate these areas.
Snow Peas are easy to grow. It is preferable that the seeds be sown direct into the garden bed, at a depth approximately three times the diameter of the seed. If the selected space is not quite ready, then the young plants can be firstly grown in pots and then transplanted into beds when appropriate.
Snow Peas are best planted when the soil temperatures are lower. They will not grow well in hotter weather. Lime or dolomite worked well into the soil at planting time will help to ensure good growth.
A tall trellis should be supplied for the young plants as they will grow up to two metres tall. Plants can even be included in general garden beds if space is limited. Watering at the base of the plants, rather than over the leaves, will help prevent the development of fungal diseases. A good air flow around the plants will also assist in this control.
Snow Peas are similar to garden peas but have a softer pod. This enables the whole pod to be used in food preparation, whether it is as a cooked vegetable or used in salads. Pods should be picked when they are young, before they become tough.
Regular harvesting of the pods is essential if a prolonged production time is to be obtained.
A delight of the winter garden is observing the different birds that frequent it in search of food sources.
Honeyeaters will be attracted to a variety of plants, including native grevilleas and banksias, as well as camellias, abelias and other exotic plants with flowers rich in nectar.
As many plants are devoid of leaves, the birds are also able to find grubs and insects that frequent the plants.
Spider webs will provide a good source for nest building, in preparation for the laying of eggs.
Blue wrens, silver eyes, golden whistlers and Eastern spinebills are all in evidence now.
Birds still require a source of water, for drinking and bathing, so a dish of water, suspended at an appropriate height that will provide protection from cats. Parrots and other larger birds will also be seeking food sources, including berries.