It is no wonder that it takes many years to get to fifteen feet tall, and may never get more than twenty feet tall. Weeping bottlebrush, Callistemon viminalis, may grow less than a foot a year, but seems to hang downward two feet. Because the stems are sculptural, and the bark has an appealingly rough texture, most weeping bottlebrush trees are grown with multiple trunks. The brick red bottlebrush flowers that bloom sporadically at any time of the year are more abundant early in summer. Established plants bloom more colorfully with a bit of water, but can probably survive quite a while without it. The evergreen leaves are narrow and mostly less than three inches long. Weeping bottlebrush needs good sun exposure.
Even without the bright yellow staminate flowers (fuzzy with prominent stamens) that bloom in late summer or autumn, the grayish foliage of knife-leaf wattle, Acacia cultriformis, is still striking. It contrasts nicely with dark green foliage of pines, redwood and ivy. What seems to be small triangular leaves are actually ‘phyllodes’, which are modified petioles (leaf stalks) of vestigial leaves. They are about half an inch to an inch long, and neatly arranged on stiff stems.
Mature trees do not get much more than ten feet tall, and grow slowly enough to be kept even shorter. They can tolerate a bit of shade from larger trees. However, they bloom more profusely with better exposure. If the pollen is not a problem, the flowers are nice for cutting. So is the foliage, which is complimentary to many other cut flowers. Like almost all acacias, knife-leaf acacia does not require much water once established.
Where it has space to grow, classic lemon bottlebrush that was so popular in the 1960’s is still a practical and resilient large shrub, and is happy to bloom with bright scarlet flowers as long as the weather is warm. It is resistant to most diseases and pests, and once established, survives on annual rainfall. Its main problem is that it simply gets too big for many situations.
Dwarf bottlebrush, Callistemon ‘Little John’, is more often a better fit, although it has a very different personality. It is short and dense, and spreads more laterally than upright. Mature plants are only about three or four feet tall, and maybe twice as wide. The smaller leaves are somewhat grayish. The distinctive bottlebrush flowers are a slightly darker shade of purplish red.
Even though established plants do not need much water at all, regular (but not necessarily generous) watering promotes bloom and growth. However, excessive watering can be lethal. Full sun exposure is best. A bit of light shade should be no problem. Dwarf bottlebrush makes a nice low informal (unshorn) hedge. Flowers attract bees and hummingbirds.
What is it about Australian plants that makes them bloom in winter? Perhaps they think they are still in Australia where it is summer. Whatever the deal is, Geraldton waxflower, Chamaelaucium uncinatum, provides a scattering of small white, pale pink or lavender pink flowers from now until spring. It is no mistake that their bloom resembles that of New Zealand tea tree. They are related.
Geraldton waxflower is pretty serious about drought tolerance. It can rot and fall over it stays too damp for too long. It likes a warm exposure and well drained soil. It is normal for the tiny evergreen leaves to be somewhat sparse. Unfortunately, it is also normal for healthy specimens in ideal situations to die out within ten years or so. Mature plants can get a bit more than six feet tall and wide.
Pictures are probably prettier than the real thing. Australian fuchsia, Correa pulchella, really does bloom with pendulous soft pink flowers through winter when not much else is blooming. However, the flowers are quite small, and the color is rather hazy. The real appeal of Australian fuchsia is that it is so undemanding, and once established, only needs watering a few times through summer.
Mature plants get a bit higher than two feet, and maybe twice as wide, with a low mounding form. The small evergreen leaves have a nice density without any pruning. Obtrusive plants do not mind getting pruned back or even shorn for confinement, but are deprived or their naturally appealing form and texture if pruned too frequently. Good exposure for both sunlight and warmth is important.
With such an odd variety of flowers blooming out of season, it should be no surprise that New Zealand tea tree, Leptospermum scoparium, decided to join the party. It starts blooming in phases in spring, and continues into autumn, so is not too terribly out of season. Besides, some varieties are known for spontaneous bloom phases at any time of year. Bloom can be pink, white or red.
The finely textured and aromatic evergreen foliage is slightly prickly to touch. Individual leaves are tiny and rather narrow, with pointed tips. Flowers are also tiny, but compensate with profusion. A few varieties have darker, almost bronzed foliage. A few varieties have fluffier double flowers (although the flowers are no wider than single flowers). The weight of bloom can cause limbs to sag.
Most garden varieties can reach the eaves. Larger varieties can eventually get to upstairs eaves. With minimal pruning, New Zealand tea tree is a colorful big shrub, with blooming stems from top to bottom. Alternatively, it can be an excellent small tree, with lower stems pruned away to expose the finely furrowed bark of the main trunks. It wants full sun, but not much else once established.
No one knows for certain who the parents were, so the hybrid Grevillea ‘Peaches and Cream’ lacks a species designation. (If it is important, the parent are most likely Grevillea banksii and Grevillea bipinnatifida.) It is an evergreen shrub that gets about four feet high and wide, with intricately lobed light green foliage. Individual leaves are about four inches long and two inches wide.
Four inch long floral trusses of tiny flowers can bloom at any time, attracting hummingbirds. Flowers bloom greenish yellow and then fade through a range of yellow, peachy orange and pink, from the bottom of the truss to the top. Warm and sunny exposure promotes bloom. Established plants do not need much water. Like other grevilleas, ‘Peaches and Cream’ grevillea can cause contact dermatitis. (It is best to know if one is allergic to it before planting it.)