I sometimes reference the plant world as its own universe. Here's one case where I think the idea of a universe definitely fits the bill. Before your very eyes, you are witnessing what I would call a floral supernova and from that supernova a star is born. This 'celestial sensation', if you will, is Protea neriifolia 'Pink Ice' also referred to as the Narrow-Leaf Sugarbush. Seriuously, check out that flower. If that isn't a heavenly body then I don't what is. The genus Protea was named after the Greek god Proteus. Proteus had the ability to change his form. Proteas come in a variety of forms. Some are small, some are medium in size, while others are large, bushy, and produce big ol' chunky flowers.
Proteas primarily come from South Africa but there are some that have been hybridized in Australia. Today's model, Protea neriifolia 'Pink Ice' happens to be one of the hybrids coming from Australia. It has punchy pink new growth stems and produces fist-sized composite flowers with feathery rosy silver bracts surrounding a bundle of fuzzy quill-like flowers. Believe it or not, each one of those "quills" is an individual flower. At the base of each individual flower is a structure that produces nectar called a nectary. Look at all those flowers bundled together. Imagine all that nectar! That's why this plant is commonly referred to as a Sugarbush. Protea neriifolia 'Pink Ice' grows to about 6 feet tall as well as wide and is one of the hardiest proteas around. It loves full sun, well-draining, nutrient lean soils - nothing too rich, low water, and is hardy to around 25 degrees fahrenheit/-3 celsius. One big note is that if you grow proteas, it is my experience to keep fertilizer containing phosphorous away from them. Phosphorous overloads these plants and can kill them. Feed them something with little or no phosphorous.
Now as far as those amazing flowers go, Protea neriifolia 'Pink Ice' blooms primarily from Autumn through Spring and intermittently the rest of the year. They make amazing cut and dried flowers. If you grow your own prune back stems that have flowered and leave new stems alone. Buds form on new growth. And if you can't grow your own, check out your local cut flower shop. They're bound to carry them. I think everyone should experience the power and magnificence of the protea. They're bold, beautiful, and out of this world.