In fact, I love lemon bottlebrushes so much that I've planted three, (count em') three in my small garden in different situations, not to mention my frost-tender callistemon viminalis, or weeping bottlebrush. Bottlebrushes are primarily grown for their showstopping scarlet blooms, but I'm really a fan of the evergreen and frost tolerant foliage (in zones 8b and up). When all my tropicals turn to blackened heaps of slime in winter, I can count on my bottlebrushes to keep plugging along and keep the landscape beautiful.
Lemon bottlebrush can be grown as a small tree or a shrub, as a standard or with multiple trunks. You can shear it and sculpt it with sterile clippers, limb it up to reveal the beautiful framework of the trunk, or just let it grow naturally. When choosing companion plants, I prefer the lime green foliage of 'Marguerite' sweet potato vine or xanthosoma 'lime zinger'. When grown as a shrub, bottlebrush's fine and glaucous foliage makes the perfect backdrop for large leaved plants like gingers, alocasias and cannas. Why not plant a groundcover of callistemon viminalis 'little john' in the foreground too? This dwarf bottlebrush is adorable... no other way to put it.
|Callistemon 'Little John'|
Bottlebrush is more likely to be planted in a sunny and well drained spot, but it excels there too, even in drought. Once its established, there's just no stopping it. I'm curious as to why I never see them as street trees here in Jacksonville, since they remain evergreen to at least twenty degrees, can handle some major drought, stay at a manageable size, and just happen to have stunning floral displays too.
Believe it or not, there are even more reasons to love the bottlebrush! Chief among them would be its sculptural and slightly contorted trunk, that's wrapped in deeply fissured grayish brown bark. One of the reasons I decided to make bottlebrushes a repeating element in the Rainforest Garden was their rough bark, since it would be a great support to grow epiphytes like bromeliads and ferns. I planted one at an 45 degree angle so the mosses and epiphytes would eventually be enticed to spread up the trunk. I picture this tree being a focal point when its multiple trunks are festooned with bromeliads and golden polypody fern.
Lastly, there are the great flowers, or rather clusters of flowers. What you see is actually a bunch of stamens shooting out radially from the inflorescence, and hummingbirds just can't get enough. I know there are plenty of other reasons to grow this tree, but let's just face it. Those vivid and fuzzy flowers would make this tree worth growing even without its other assets... even if it was the most finicky plant on earth, which it isn't, by the way.