Ovens & Murray Advertiser
Late bloomers after a wetter summer
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.