bottlebrush blooms in july Callistemon garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest

Bottlebrush

bottlebrush to the right of the pink rhodo
photo by SVSeekins

Most of the time the Bottlebrush is just an unusual evergreen weeping shrub.  Its spiky, lance-shaped leaves don’t look like the needles of any coniferous tree I’ve ever seen.  But it’s kinda funky – – and you know, I appreciate funky.   🙂  So it makes perfect sense to me to plant one as a backgrounder in the shrub border.

bottlebrush in bloom Callistemon garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It gets very little notice when the rhododendron right beside it blooms in May.

But come July, the spring spectacular in the garden fades.  The hummingbirds & butterflies shift their attention as the Callistemon commands centre stage.  For a couple of weeks, the red blooms are spectacular: a true summery colour.

bottlebrush blooms Callistemon garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The flowers are 5 inches long + 2 inches wide, but STRANGE….

Instead of bobbing at the top of stem-like normal flowers do, the bottlebrush flower petals circle the branch itself.  These blossoms remind me of the gizmo we use to wash out wine bottles.  The name bottlebrush is àpropos.

As the blooms fade the seed clusters add a little interesting texture as the shrub returns to its regular backdrop duties.

bottlebrush seed head Callistemon garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I know bottlebrush has coastal Australian origins, so I”ve crossed my fingers it’ll survive our occasional winter freeze.  So far, so good.

It’s reputed to like a little moisture too, but after it became established I’ve really reduced the mollycoddling.  With a whole lot more mulch & a lot less water, it seems as drought tolerant as it needs to be in this pacific northwest garden.

bottlebrush blooms Callistemon garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Because of the tough needle-like leaves, I didn’t expect any trouble from the deer, but we did have a problem the first year this bottlebrush was planted.

A young buck came into the yard.  Frustrated with his velvet antlers, he was rubbing them on anything that might help remove the itchy felt.  He took on the trunk of the evergreen magnolia (surviving still, but will never reach its grand potential)… he took on the columnar cedar bushes (recovered well)…  He took on the bottlebrush & it shredded under his antlers. Poor thing.

recovering bottlebrush Callistemon garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It was a good thing I was broke at the time because otherwise I might have just dug it up & replaced it with something else.  Instead, I cut back the broken stems darn near the ground. It was delightful the following year to see it spring back & grow like crazy.  I caged it for a year or so, but now it’s larger & unprotected.  

protected bottlebrush, Callistemon garden Victoria BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

There’s another young buck coming around this summer, so I’ll keep an eye out for any signs of antler rubbing & be on the ready with more wire fencing.

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© SVSeekins and Garden Variety Life, 2013

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