METRO PLUS

Brush with a bush

THE WEEPING bottlebrush tree (Callistemon viminalis) is a large shrub or small tree from New South Wales (Australia). It is also known as the `drooping bottlebrush' and has pendulous branches with lance-shaped light green leaves. The small tubular flowers have numerous long scarlet stamens. Flowers are arranged around the tips of branches like the bristles of a cylindrical brush and hence the English name.

In Greek `Callistemon' means `beautiful stamens'. Small bead-like fruits are developed on old wood above the flowers with many small seeds inside them. The showy bottlebrush-like flower spikes are produced in summer.

The tree needs good watering but can tolerate dry conditions. It prefers sandy soils and partially shaded positions.

Callistemon viminalis are often seen planted by ponds and waterways to enhance their Weeping Willow-like appearance. The plant belongs to the family Myrtaceae.

It can be effectively grown by tall buildings to protect the trees from strong winds. Pruning at times is necessary to prevent top heaviness and wind damage. Occasional feeding with iron helps the plant ward off chlorosis. The tree is propagated through seeds and cuttings. Propagation by seeds is a slow process, though.

Brush with a bush

Callistemon citrinus is another truly spectacular bottlebrush plant with dazzling red stamens growing on short, stiff spray around the tips of its new branches.

The shrub is evergreen covered with hard, narrow, stiff, grey-green lance-shaped leaves eight-centimetres long and one-centimetre wide, which are bunched together and held close to the branches. Fine silky hair, which covers the stems wear off with age.

The plant blooms when young and grows up to be a sturdy one, reaching a height of about two metres in sandy soil. It should be kept in the dry side and full sun. They require direct sunlight daily to bloom well. Worth keeping as a houseplant but should be drastically pruned to keep it smaller and bushy.

Callistemon Harkness is a dense rounded shrub - three metres tall. The deep-red flower spikes are larger than the other two callistemon.

If you are looking for a beautiful tree outside your house and a street tree has not been planted, we would recommend a bottlebrush bush.

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Types: Callistemon Viminals, harkness and Citrinus Family: Myrtaceae Conditions: Full sunlight, good watering.

CHITRA RADHAKRISHNAN

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