By GEOFF MIERS
A plant commonly referred to as bottlebrush comes in all shapes and sizes and can add real colour and charm to the garden, along with being ideally suited to this climate.
Callistemons are quite tough plants once established, are drought tolerant and withstand temperature extremes. Forty plus degrees has no affect on them while when temperatures drop below zero degrees young plants can incur some tip burnt. Once established sub zero temperatures will have little effect at all.
These evergreen Australian shrubs and trees bear magnificent long stemmed, mostly red flowers in dense cylindrical spikes. There are today however varieties that produce pink, lilac, white and various forms of red blooms.
Callistemons tend to flower for an extended season sometimes for many months. There are 25 callistemon species however they do hybridise quite easily so today there are many hybrid varieties available in nurseries.
Their flowers are nectar rich guaranteed to attract birds to your garden.
The shrubby medium sized callistemons make for ideal screening or border plants while the larger species make for ideal small to medium trees that are easily managed.
Varieties vary in height from 90cms, one metre, 1.5 metres , two metres and others from 2.5 to four or five metres in height.
A light prune after flowering will remove the seed capsules that form after flowering.
Pruning removes the seed capsules, removing any disease or pests introduced to the plants by scores of birds visits the plants and will generally improve the shape of the plant. Pruning will also improve flowering the following year.
Bottlebrush are best grown in full sun and will tolerate a wide range of soils and local conditions.
One of the smallest is callistemon Little John growing 90 cms high by 1.25 metres wide. It has masses of smallish red flowers and deep green foliage. It is drought tolerant once established and makes for a great foreground plant and looks great when planted in clusters or when mass planted.
Callistemon Captain Cook is a colourful dwarf evergreen shrub growing to 1.2 to 1.5 metres. This bottlebrush displays a profusion of bright red flowers in spring and again in autumn. This is complimented by the reddish new foliage that is generally evident all year round.
Callistemon Captain Cook while liking moist soils is tolerant of dry conditions for extended periods and loves it in Central Australian gardens.
Callistemon Slim is another exciting new hybrid variety with a narrow growth habit that needs little pruning to keep its shape. While it can grow to three metres tall it maintains a slim form 1.3 metres wide. With pruning it can be kept to 1.5 metres high by 60cms wide.
Callistemon Slim has classic red bottlebrush flowers that cover the bush through spring and autumn.
Callistemon viminalis or Weeping Red Bottlebrush is a medium sized tree capable of growing seven to 10 metres high although often it can be found growing only to five metres high. This tree has an attractive weeping habit with new growth having a reddish tinge.
Callistemon viminalis makes for an ideal hedge when planted close together and kept pruned, makes for a great screening plant and can be planted as a single stand alone tree. Like all the bottlebrush it is a great bird attracting tree.
Although now called a melaleuca Central Australia has its own bottlebrush, Callistemon pauciflorus, an attractive three metre high shrub that has masses of small red or white bottlebrush flowers. Again it is bird attracting, can be hedged and makes for a great screening plant.
There are many callistemon hybrid varieties that can be found in your local nursery.
Looking to bring in the nectar feeding birds, want something that grows relatively quickly and want something that is tough then look to the vast array of bottlebrush varieties.
PHOTOS clockwise from left: Callistemon Captain Cook, a dwarf growing bottlebrush • Callistemon viminalis, a small tree • Callistemon Kings Park, growing three to four metres.
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