Protea Prowess

I just love looking at papers and patterns and graphic design and when you look at as many prints as I do, you get a strong sense of the looks and motifs that are of the moment.

My older sister would argue that the pineapple is the queen of motifs with a both fascinating history and a current feel. But I think it’s the protea that’s on track to be the king motif of 2017.

Protea is the botanical name and the English common name of a genus of South African flowering plants which also answer to the name sugarbushes.  The giant or King Protea is South Africa’s national flower. It is the largest of  the proteas species, which make up an important part of the Cape Floral  Region, a major global biodiversity hotspot and Unesco World Heritage  site.

According to Teleflora, the protea is among the oldest families of flowers on earth, dating back 300 million years. With its mythological associations to change and transformation, in the language of flowers, protea symbolizes diversity and courage. Perhaps that’s why the South Africans name their national cricket team the Proteas.

Greek legend has it that the protea were named after Proteus, the son of Poseidon. A sea god who had the power to know all things past, present and future, Proteus was defiant and preferred to nap on the island of Pharos rather than prophesize.

To deter those seeking his insights, he would change his shape at will, and it’s said that the protea flower was named after him because it presents itself in an astounding variety of shapes, sizes, hues and textures to make up more than 1,400 varieties be it protea itself, leucadendron, leucosperm, adenanthos, aulux or mimetes. So many varieties, so little time.

I could spend all day looking a images of proteas (in fact I just did). The specialist protea nurseries have stunning images and plenty of tips and tricks for growing the perfect bloom.

King Protea
King Protea. Image from Protea World

Proteas are relatively easy to grow provided you follow some simple rules. ProteaWorld  has a list of top tips, including the sage advice that Proteas, just like most Australian natives, prefer a good drink once a week during dry periods and warmer months, rather than little and often. A life tip for all of us really.

Proteas are also incredibly versatile. How about a protea for hedging or screening? For part shade or full shade? Low growing? Lime tolerant? In a pot? Let’s not forget that The South African cricket team got its name from this flower. But, more importantly, how about for stationery or gift wrapping paper. Yes please.

There are some simply stunning journals and prints coming out featuring proteas. My current favourite is Typoflora who have beautiful copper foil designs and prints.

Typoflora Protea Journal
Foil Printed Journal from Typoflora. Image from Typoflora.


When it comes to gift wrapping, there are some lovely protea choices indeed. You would expect the Africans to produce lovely papers featuring the protea – and they do – the Protea cream wrapping paper by ALoveSupreme is striking, while the Kirstenbosch Branch of the Botanical Society of South Africa has their own beautiful version.


I am also loving the pattern from Micklyn Le Feuvre.

Protea Junique
Photo from Junique.

On the Australian front, Melbourne’s InkyCo also has a some beautiful protea options – their pink proteas are scrumptious as is their print Flower Tribe on Kraft.

I love buying bunches of proteas as a gift because of their unique shape and because they last really well. You can even dry them if you want to.  But I love protea gift wrap nearly as much, if not more. I think it lends such a lovely touch such that when it was time to wrap a gardening journal as a gift, sorry pineapples – there was only one choice – time to deploy a little protea prowess.


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