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!