These unusual flowers have long lives
and old souls.
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
Menzies’ Banksia, Strawberry Banksia
Photo courtesy of California
Cut Flower Commission
1 DENSE FLOWERS. Pronounced
“BANK-see-a,” these unusual flowers have dense, fuzzy inflorescences
made up of tightly packed small flowers. The rugged appearance created
by their serrated leaves and large flower heads give Banksias a
distinctive appearance of great value in floral design.
2 A BOTANIST IMMORTAL. Botanists
began collecting and studying this genus as early as 1597. There are
approximately 75 Banksia species, and all but one occur naturally in
Australia. Botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander are credited with
the discovery of Banksias, and the plants were named in honor of Mr.
Banks’ contribution to botany.
3 A PREHISTORIC EXISTENCE. Banksias
are members of the Proteaceae family, which has more than 1,400 species
including Protea, Leucospermum (pincushions), Leucadendron and Telopea
in addition to Banksia. Proteaceae is an ancient family, perhaps one of
the oldest known groups of flowering plants. Scientific studies of plant
life show that the family existed more than 300 million years ago.
4 AN AUSTRALIAN NATIVE. Most
Banksias are native to Australia. Southwestern Australia contains the
greatest diversity, with approximately 60 species recorded. The
aborigines were the first humans to discover and make use of Banksia
plants. They used the nectar from the flowers as part of their diet.
5 EARTHY COLOR PALLETTE. Most
Banksia blossoms have earth-toned colors of yellow, orange, red, pink
and green. The flower colors of some species and cultivars change over
time in vase solutions. Banksias also can be altered using
absorption-type floral dyes.
6 YEAR-ROUND SEASON. De-pending on
the species, Banksias are available year-round from both international
and domestic sources. There are periods when they are more plentiful,
particularly during the cooler seasons in the various regions where they
are grown. If particular species are desired, order them in advance from
your favorite wholesaler.
7 LOOK BEFORE LEAPING. Purchase
Banksias when approximately one-third of the florets are showing stamens
or pollen. Watch for blackened foliage or florets and for any sign of
fungus inside the “bottle-brush”-shaped heads. Banksia flowers rot
easily if they are kept wet for any length of time, so avoid flowers
with any sign of water damage.
8 SIMPLE CARE. Handling these
flowers is easy. Trim at least 1 inch from the bottom of each stem with
a sharp knife or pruner. Remove all leaves that would fall below the
water line and any that conceal the blossoms. Place the stems into a
clean vase or bucket with a properly prepared flower food solution.
Recut the stems, change the vase water frequently and keep these flowers
away from direct sunlight to keep them looking fresh. Banksias generally
last for about two weeks, depending on species.
9 THEY LIKE IT COOL. Store Banksias
at 33 F to 38 F to extend their vase life. Generally they should not be
kept in floral coolers for more than two weeks.
10 ALL DRIED UP. Banksias dry easily
and have many uses as dried flowers. They will dry without shedding
leaves or florets.
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of
horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 26
years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry.
• To read and see more,
to purchase the current issue of Florist's Review.
PO Box 4368
Topeka, KS 66604
©Copyright 2005 Florists'
Review Enterprises • Site management by