Florists love phormium
The plant's stiff, long, colourful leaves can be used in many ways, adding texture to arrangements. Whole leaves provide height, or they can be coiled, twisted, folded, cut and braided for special effects. Tip: Keep Phormium leaves in a bucket of clear, fresh, room temperature water to maintain their flexibility.
A rich history
Phormium means “basket” in Greek, a reference to one of the items made by New Zealand's Maori people by weaving together the plant's leaves.
Maoris have been using Phormium foliage to make rope and clothing for centuries. The long, flexible, water-resistant leaves are ideal for braiding into containers, mats, shoes and even shelters. At one time, medicine was made from the roots and nectar obtained from the flowers, and the pollen was used for face powder.
New Zealand flax was brought to Europe by Sir Joseph Banks, who noticed it while accompanying Captain Cook on his first voyage in 1769. The plant soon became a resource in the U.K. for the manufacture of rope. Gradually, however, synthetic materials and less expensive plant fibres took over; the last English Phormium mills were closed in the 1980s.
Key: Phormium ‘Apricot Queen': 1, P. ‘Evening Glow': 2, P. ‘Sundowner': 3, P. ‘Wings of Gold': 4, P. ‘Yellow Wave': 5, P. cookianum: 6, P. c. ssp. hookeri ‘Tricolor': 7, P. c. x tenax ‘Rainbow Chief' a.k.a. ‘Maori Chief': 8, P. tenax: 9, P. t. ‘Bronze' a.k.a ‘Bronze Baby': 10, P. t. ‘Variegatum': 11.
Art's Nursery Ltd.: 5.
Canning Perennials: 10.
Flamingo Holland Inc.: 1, 7, 8.
Peninsula Flowers Nursery: 4, 6.
Perennial Gardener, 13139 224th St., Maple Ridge, BC V4R 2P6; 604/467-4218; : 4.
The Plant Farm: 1, 5-7, 9, 10.
Tropic To Tropic Plants: 9, 11.
Wild Things Plant Farm: 1-3, 7, 8, 10.