Grevilleas as Cut Flowers - Part Two
Using grevilleas from your garden
Part One in Issue 16 took a look at the take-up of grevilleas by the cut flower trade. However, you might have some growing in your yard. Have you ever tried them in a vase?
Although Grevillea flowers are among the showiest of Australian-derived ornamentals, the genus overall perform rather poorly after cutting. Research and development is being done to improve their performance in commercial floristry. Following are some tips gleaned from the professionals which may help you enjoy your own home-grown grevilleas indoors as well as out.
Research has shown some species and cultivars perform better than others, so if you are especially keen on cutting flowers from the garden, select varieties that are already known to known to perform relatively well and are used by the trade.
'Sylvia', 'Moonlight', 'Majestic' are cultivars that should be readily obtainable by the home gardener. G. pteridifolia, G. sessilis and G. whiteana are species that have also been reported as having relatively long vase lives .
A grevillea known as 'Spiderman' in Israel is commercially grown there for the European market . This is a cultivar of, or possibly the straight species of, Grevillea whiteana  or the very similar Grevillea hodgei .
To date, most of the commercially popular cultivars are of tropical origin and so their cultivation will be limited to warm districts. If you can't grow the above in your climate, you may have to to experiment with other species.
When to pick
Harvesting at the correct stage is key to achieving good vase life. The blooms should be picked when fully developed but before the styles have fully emerged from the florets. 10% to 100% of the styles on the inflorescence should be in the looped stage, with remaining florets in the splitting stage [5,6].
| || Inflorescence on the left of the image is suitable for picking. All the styles are looped or soon to emerge.|
The other bloom, with 100% of styles emerged, is too old.
To improve the performance of your cut grevilleas, try these techniques of the cut flower trade [5,7,8]:
Remove excess leaves to reduce transpiration
Place flowers in a cool but draught-free spot
Check water levels daily because flowers can use a lot of water
Use a commercial cut-flower food, or change water every second day
Cut 2cm off the base of the stem daily to remove blockages
In northern parts of Australia (i.e. tropical/subtropical), the flowers reportedly last longer when harvested in the autumn and winter compared to the spring and summer.
As discussed in Part One, Grevillea baileyana foliage has been used commercially for its interesting leaf shapes and colour as well as long vase life. So try experimenting with grevillea foliage, too, mixed with grevillea flowers or with other native or exotic blooms.
Next time you're purchasing cut flowers, you might like to consider grevilleas for something a little different with an Australian flavour. Meanwhile, if you're growing grevilleas, why not try bringing some of their beauty indoors?
References and other sources
 Tropical grevilleas vase life better than expected. Australian Horticulture, Sept 1996 p43-45
For more background information about grevilleas in general see the list of links on www.calyx.com.au/native_species/grevillea.html