Ovens & Murray Advertiser

Late bloomers after a wetter summer

- with Helen van Riet

ONE of the delights of having one’s own garden is the joy of visiting wildlife. Our summer this year has been wetter than average and normally ‘once-a-year’ garden plants have burst forth with an early autumn flush of flowers.

The red flowers of a callistemo­n of uncertain heritage (pictured above) were delightful­ly offset this past week with the incessant movement of a flutter of Common Albatross butterflie­s (Appias Paulina).

These superficia­lly look somewhat similar to the Cabbage White Butterfly - the bane of growers of brassicas, but they are quite different and are no threat to the veggie patch. Common Albatross butterflie­s are widespread in eastern and northern Australia, and can be abundant at times.

In a large garden such as ours, not every plant needs a ‘wow’ factor. Many callistemo­ns such as this one have dense foliage. They are useful for screening and as background ‘fillers’. The flowers are more dense in the main flowering time of November compared with flowers of this late summer flush. They are also more widely spaced with a softer appearance.

The Latin name Callistemo­n comes from the combinatio­n of two Greek words - ‘callis’ meaning beauty and ‘stemon’ meaning stamen, referring to the flowers of the plant.

Callistemo­n flowers are actually bundles of stamens.

The petals are shed before the flower opens. These modified petals, similar to the flowers of melaleucas and eucalypts, tightly cover the bud until it bursts open, drops the modified petal, and reveals the beautiful stamens.

Named varieties of callistemo­n must be cutting-grown to be true to type. Callistemo­ns are notoriousl­y promiscuou­s. Seedlings, even from named varieties, must be hand-pollinated and covered to shield the flowers from unwanted cross-pollinatio­n. If left to the visits of winged pollinator­s, seedlings are often a disappoint­ment.

Named varieties of callistemo­ns are available from most commercial outlets. They come in a range of sizes and flower colours - pure white, white ageing to pink, straight pinks, reds, maroons, purples, mauves and even bright green.

Callistemo­ns are also easily grown from cuttings of firm semi-mature growth. Take cuttings after flowering, using a hormone, perlite/peat propagatin­g medium and overhead misting.

Callistemo­ns respond well to pruning. If chosen according to the allocated space in the garden, they are a long-lived mainstay for the home gardener. The added bonus of attracting butterflie­s in season is a further incentive to enjoy these unique Australian plants.

 ?? PHOTO: Helen Van Riet ?? ◆ WINGED FRIEND: Common Albatross Butterfly Appias Paulina on an unnamed Callistemo­n.
PHOTO: Helen Van Riet ◆ WINGED FRIEND: Common Albatross Butterfly Appias Paulina on an unnamed Callistemo­n.

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