Friday, September 5, 2014

Love the Lemony Blooms on this Bottle Brush

Nearly one month ago, a colleague and I were watering in the order beds.  It was the height of summer and London was suffering from droughty conditions.  I think that both of us were starting to get pretty exhausted from lugging hoses and sprinklers around.  When my co-worker called to me from further down the row, my stomach sank.  I thought maybe I had inadvertently squashed something with my hose.  But he was only calling my attention to a mildly attractive shrub. 

Callistemon pallidus is a shrub to get
excited about when it's in bloom
"This is a really interesting plant," he said, "It has an unusual flower."  Callistemon pallidus (2010-117) wasn't in bloom yet, and after a further description of the blooms, I shrugged my shoulders and went back to work.  I've seen a Callistemon (a.k.a. bottlebrush) before.  I wasn't particularly impressed.

Last week, the mildly attractive shrub opened one lemon yellow bottlebrush flower.  I was hooked.  It held that solitary bloom for seven days before sputtering out several more.  It's a "must see" for anyone who is a fan of  interesting shrubbery.  I know there's a few of us out there.

Callistemon pallidus, or the lemon bottlebrush, is native to Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales in Australia.  The specimen in Kew's order beds was grown from wild material in its native habitat.  The notes in Kew's living collections database state that there were about 500 or less plants growing in a Eucalyptus forest, alongside Billardiera longiflora, Leptospermum, Banksia marginata, and Lomatia tinctoria.

Like other Callistemon, lemon bottlebrush does not tolerate cold.  Its USDA hardiness zones are 10 and 11, which rules out Knoxville, Tennessee unless we overwinter in a protected environment.  However, gardeners in California, Florida, and similar climates who are a bit sick of the typical lipstick red bottlebrushes should consider substituting this lemon beauty.

Kew's specimen was planted in 2010,
so it is still relatively young.  It may
reach up to 12 feet in height!
C. pallidus can get up to 12 feet tall, so consider placing toward the back of a border, the center of a bed, or as a barrier or hedge.  If red spider mites are common in your area, the lemon bottlebrush may not be right for you.  Check to see how the other Callistemon in your neighbourhood are performing before adding the lemon bottlebrush to your landscape.

If you're in the London area, come to Kew and have a gander at the specimen growing in the order beds.  If you live in a warm climate, consider adding this plant to your palette.  The rest of us will have to settle for using as a container plant and moving to the garage for winter.  I think this bottlebrush is well worth the effort.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please feel welcome to leave a comment or send me an email.

To see more photos from this week, be sure to check out the album "Love the Lemony Blooms on this Bottle Brush" on the Plante on Plants Facebook page.  "Likes", shares and comments are appreciated.

All photos and videos were taken by Amanda Plante at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew unless otherwise stated in the caption.

  • "Callistemon pallidus".  (21 May 2013).  Australian National Botanic Garden.
  • Center for the International Trade in Endangered Species database
  • Kew's Living Collections database
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of threatened species
  • The Plant List website
  • The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew website and staff