Bottlebrush borders

Crimson bottlebrushes

Welcome back to Not So Grand Designs Australia, where time and expense stand in the way of everything. Our front yard was in need of additional screening, so we carved out another garden bed and added a bottlebrush hedge in order to make that happen. A hedge with colour.

Before view, bottlebrush borders

The sudden need for screening is our own fault, admittedly, since we removed the large rhododendron (seen here as a stump) and two arborvitae. I eagerly planted the Japanese maple during our first year at the house, but felt pretty dumb when I realised that its ‘sheltered’ spot was no longer the case in mid-summer. Whoops. A hedge would provide a windbreak and a bit of extra shade, as well as privacy.

Amending the soil

Jamie and I installed paver edging, but stopped at that corner before building out the bed all at once. Before continuing to lay pavers or planting any hedges, though, we amended the soil in that section with compost. We used bulk compost, but we also had usable material from our composting tumbler! That was a first. The compost was mixed in with a mattock and the soil levelled out with a rake.

And as for the plants, I knew that I wanted two more bottlebrushes to go next to the already-established one, but we’re impatient. So we got the most advanced bottlebrushes we could find. 

Bottlebrush planting

The pavers went down quickly, much like before, and it was time to plant our bottlebrushes!

(NB: Bottlebrush is is the common name in Australia for these plants, which are often known elsewhere by their botanical name, Callistemon. I call them “bottlebrushes” because I’ve never known any differently.)

We planted the trees back in August, on a rainy day, while the water table was nice and high. I mixed damp coir peat into the surrounding soil to help with water retention; bottlebrushes don’t care if the soil is dry, but extra water = more flowers. I also  gave them regular treatments with Seasol, to help minimise transplant shock. I don’t know how well the stuff works, it could just be empty claims to convince me to buy seaweed juice, but the plants never complain.

The list of available cultivars is as long as your arm, but I wanted two that were: 1) not red, 2) distinct from each other, and 3) growing to at least 2.5m (~8ft) high. Our final choices were Pink Champagne and Genoa Glory. The trees came from Westland Nursery, $115 each, both at least 1m high. Worth it.

Bottlebrush colours - Pink Champagne, Genoa Glory and an unknown red

I was incredibly excited to see what the flower colours would look like in person, and they did. not. disappoint. They’re showiest in late spring, but they might spot-flower all summer.

The crimson brushes are on our established guy. Pink Champagne fades from bright pink to white, with noticeable pollen on its filaments, and the Genoa Glory is a beautiful maroon which can vary from red to purple.

Bottlebrush bed
Bottlebrush bed, in flower

I added a few ‘Seaspray’ dianellas, but the bed still looks quite empty. Everything will fill in! The bottlebrushes will grow, it’ll be apples. I’m indecisive about which shrubby groundcover to put in front — a prostrate white correa with some bush daisies thrown in, maybe? I dunno.

Pink Passion, Melaleuca gibbosaBottlebrush border / corner

The Melaleuca over there is also covered in pink pom-poms at this time of year. He’s not a bottlebrush, but he’s closely related. Melaleuca gibbosa is usually pale mauve, but found in this striking pink form up the east coast of Tasmania. It’s looking good against the painted block wall, to be honest. How great are its little puffballs?

Flowers out front

Our lawn currently looks like fresh hell because we’re top-dressing and reseeding patches of it, so here’s a shot of the front yard in full November bloom, before we covered it in soil and made it look awful all over again. There’s still plenty on the to-do list, but at least out here I can step back for a minute and let the bottlebrush hedge grow.

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