Flower Arranging with Proteas
Flowerheads should never be picked before they start opening, as earlier picking inhibits opening. Never pick after rain or dew as wet leaves tend to blacken more easily and develop fungal problems. In general, the longest vase life can be obtained by picking flowerheads when the outermost row of florets has just begun to open. Vase life can also be increased by picking during the coolest part of the day, adding some sugar to the vase water (between 0.5% and 1% concentration or one to two tablespoons sugar per litre vase water), and changing the water completely every two to three days. Since cut stems produce a callus plug which stops water uptake, stems should be cut back by 10-20 mm with each water change.
Protea flowerheads may be filled with a variety of insects, mainly beetles, which are important as pollinators. While these may not be desirable, they are of little consequence in a flower arrangement - unless you intend selling flowerheads overseas! Similarly, the thousands of small itch mites which inhabit Sugarbush flowerheads can generally be ignored. As a rule, any protea flowerheads picked at the correct stage will contain neither mites nor insects.
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