Thursday, March 26, 2009

Proteas in the urchin's lair

This is Protea obtusifolia (Limestone Sugarbush). I hope viewers will excuse the temporal sleight of hand, for this photo was taken in January, some time before the blog's inception.

It is relevant, however, since I am at present nursing a few Protea obtusifolia seedlings (also in the litter are Protea susannae and Protea cynaroides). Stowaways in the tray include several heaths (Erica bauera ssp gouriquae, Erica diaphana, Erica mammosa and Erica margaritacea). Both diaphana and bauera have germinated, rapturously.

I'll report on the Ericas later, but let's just say that they are highly experimental and have a slim chance of growing in my zone 11 give-it-a-try universe. I should disabuse myself of the notion that everything grows here, but have always found this far too sensible a notion to adopt without serious prejudice.

Protea obtusifolia was my second Protea to transition from seed to mature flowering plant. The first was Protea lanceolata, but sadly, it passed away. Sniff, sniff. Both of these species were chosen since they thrive on alkaline soil, which is opportune since I can almost certainly supply the world with that poky limestone.

Growing your own fynbos garden is a great way to unnerve your neighbors and further reinforce, in their minds, that you are, as they increasingly suspect, a witch doctor. Let me explain: plants from the South African fynbos are seasonally ravaged by fires. Hence, the seeds germinate well in smoky ash-filled environments. Protea growers often advocate creating an ad hoc tent for the purpose of subjecting the seeds to the smoke of burning fynbos detritus.

I have since determined that this is quite unnecessary (though spectacularly intriguing). The seeds germinate well with no pre-treatment. The trick is to sow them when you have a good night-day temperature differential. For me, that means plant your seeds any time from December to March. Success will follow. Most Proteas germinate in 30 days under these conditions.

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