Friday, January 16, 2009

A Drink for Just-Past-Bloom-Day

In some parts of the Northern Hemisphere the gardeners are getting a bit desperate for some colour, but I haven't managed to post on Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day yet because I keep missing the day! Founder Carol sounds a bit down, and I thought I'd offer a virtual drink to her and to all of you who need cheering up. A nice, bubbly, girly kind of drink. Cheers!

Here are some shots of flowers opening on my pink bottle-brush, Callistemon 'Pink Champagne'. Mine must be eight years old or more, and is approaching three metres in height. The brushes would be 10-15cm long.

I love the way the stamens unwind gradually from their capsules.

Insects and honey-eating birds flock to the flowers, which come in flushes. I love this fresh shell-pink, though I don't like the way the flower fades to a washed-out grey-pink after a few days. Once it stops flowering, the plant tends to disappear into the background. For this reason, I think Callistemons are at their best in a mixed shrubbery. If they are left unpruned, bottle-brushes become trees, but they retain a shrubby habit if clipped. A gentleman in a nearby street has two beautifully kept bottle-brush balls on his nature-strip. The new leaves are a pretty grey-green and hirsute, nice to touch -- when they age the leaves become hard. The foliage has a pleasant medicinal sort of smell when crushed.

Callistemons are tough (they're commonly used as street trees) and can be long-lived -- the three bottle-brushes outside one of my childhood homes must be about 40 years old and are still looking healthy. Callistemons like some water and many species do well on clay soils or in boggy ground. There are many cultivars, most with flowers in the pink-red-purple range, though there are cream/white species and a green one. Bottle-brushes are a good size for gardens: heights vary from under a metre to the magnificence of the Mildura specimen I photographed earlier (it is probably 'Harkness', an old hybrid). They require almost no attention. I'd suggest an annual feeding with blood and bone and to prune after flowering to discourage legginess. Or you can try your hand at topiary; either way, the plant won't mind. A toast to the Callistemon family!


Unknown said...

Very nice bloom.

Unknown said...

Beautiful! Thanks. :)

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

You gotta love those bottle-brushes as they are colourful and fun. Thanks for the tutorial.

Carol Michel said...

Thanks, I appreciate seeing the color of that very interesting flower. I'll add you to the bloom day list!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Anonymous said...

I love the weeping Calistemons.

They are such a great tree for the garden :)

Anonymous said...

I have never seen one unfurl like that. They are all or nothing.

Didn't realise how beautiful they are!

Anonymous said...

Hi. I'm Paula. I'm the Paula who left a comment on Rhonda's blog. I was upset when I read the 'rant' she made about me. I was even more upset when I read all the comments in relation to that rant. I just wanted to say thank you so very much for your comments, you really touched my heart standing out in support of me. I do realise my comments were strong, unfortunately I just wrote what I felt. A mistake I now know. I was considering apologising to Rhonda if my comments had upset her but I have decided that to do that will just continue the whole thing. Someone said I must be very young to have said such things, I am 59 and consider myself to be a sensible and mature woman.
Oh sorry - I'm going on too much here - I just wanted to say thank you so much, you're a gem.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the helpful info on growing one of these wonderful Australian natives. I had two 'Little John' (dwarf) bottlebrushes in my old garden, but I'm toying with the idea of a tree in my new one. They're somewhat cold tender in Austin though, which gives me pause. It would have to go in a very sheltered location.