Many a tree is found in the wood,
And every tree for its use is good;
Some for the strength of the gnarled root,
Some for the sweetness of flower or fruit.
~Henry van Dyke, Salute to the Trees
Last month I planted three callistemon that I bought from a nearby nursery. So in order to give them the best start possible, and the best ongoing care, I have prepared a plant profile. The three I bought were Reeves pink. Reeves pink has beautiful, bright pink flower spikes with golden anthers in spring and summer. I look forward to the time when mine are flowering! The Callistemon is a hardy, quick growing, many branched shrub. It grows to between two and four metres with a spread of between two to four metres. Some varieties have two flowering seasons a year.
As well as being decorative, callistemons can also be used as a low screen or hedge plant. It is a forage plant for nectar eating birds and it attracts bees.
|It's hard to see from this photo but the stake in the foreground is where I planted another callistemon|
The natural habitat of callistemons is moist, sunny areas. However they will grow in most soils and climatic conditions, though they can be slow to establish. They will tolerate poor soils and can be grown in full sun to part shade. Callistemon spp cope with light frost but need protection from strong winds. Mulching will keep the plants happy. The plant will tolerate short periods of dryness as well as short periods of wet soils.
|Another of our bottlebrushes|
Regular feeding with a native plant food should see the plant receives the nutrients it requires. However I have dug some good compost through the back fill soil at planting, so I am hoping they will have the nutrients they need for now.
Tip borers and caterpillars can attack callistemon plants, but apparently they very rarely need any intervention to help them recover. If I do have a problem with webbing caterpillars, I will prune the affected area and bin it.
To maintain a nice shape they can be pruned after flowering. They are apparently easy to propagate from seeds or cuttings, but I have never tried. Reportedly they cross-breed easily, and there are many varieties available from nurseries. It would probably be easy enough for me to establish a large collection if I ever wanted to in the future.
Tim Marshall, The New Organic Gardener
Tom Wyatt, All your gardening questions answered.