Saturday, 14 September 2013

Bottlebrush on Fire

Despite the fact that we are in the middle of an extremely dry and bushfire-wary Spring (it's been simply months since we've experienced any rain) and that everyone's gardens and lawns are sadly brown and dying, it's been wonderful to notice in the last week or so colour along streets and in parks due to the blossoming of the spectacular Bottlebrush flower.  The tree in our very own front yard (picture below) has already begun to burst into a mass of colour and also enticing birdlife - in particular Rainbow Lorikeets - to feed from the nectar within the flower.  What really amazes me though is that although the branches and leaves themselves appear brown and lifeless, it hasn't prevented the flowering process - in fact it gives the impression of 'Bottlebrush on Fire'.

So with this in mind, I thought it appropriate to give a few interesting facts about this native plant whilst in its glory. Belonging to the Myrtaceae family and a member of the genus Callistemon, the plant is found from the tropical north to the temperate south along the east and south east of Australia with two species found in the south west of Western Australia and whilst it thrives in damp conditions, it is hardy, frost and drought tolerant and requires little or no maintenance.  Bottlebrush grow in a variety of soils and requires full sun for the best flowering in spring and summer when it attracts nectar-feeding birds and insects.  Flower spikes are made up of a number of individual flowers and pollen forms on the tip of a long stalk called filaments which gives the distinctive 'bottlebrush' shape. The Bottlebrush make excellent garden plants and its popularity began soon after European settlement and then introduced to Britain by Joseph Banks in 1789.  

Some of the varieties of Bottlebrush that grow in most parts of Australia are Prickly, Crimson, Kingaroy, Lemon, and Weeping all growing to a height of 3 to 5 metres, with either red or lemon coloured flower spikes.  The Alpine is a compact 1 metre bush with yellow flowers and the Willow with white or greenish flower spikes which can also be found in the pretty colours of pink, red or mauve.  Harkness, Hannah Ray, Dawn River Weeper all have a weeping habit, Little John has blue/green foliage, and Reeves Pink and Mauve Mist have pink flowers.

My cross stitch design could belong to any one of the above red flowering varieties and was one of my very first designs due to my being surrounded by inspiration.  With the use of long stitch from the central stem to the outer flower overlapping each other it gives a three-dimensional effect and the black and yellow french knots finish the design beautifully.

In the past, I have placed cut Bottlebrush stems in a vase to inject a profusion of colour in the house. Unfortunately, the spikes or 'needles' are frail and drop quite easily leaving a mess and dry stalk which really is not very attractive, so now I prefer to appreciate the beauty in its natural form remaining on the tree and for our native birdlife.


'Life isn't about how you survived the storm ... it's about how you danced in the rain'

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