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As those of you who read my personal blog (danger garden) know – and are probably sick of hearing about – I opened my garden as part of a fund-raising tour last weekend. One of the frequently asked about plants was the Callistemon viridiflorus. Some of those asking expressed shock it was hardy here in Oregon, followed by a sort of disapproving grunt and something about “growing them in California, why would I want to grow it here!” I’ve heard a similar reaction from others who’ve grown up surrounded by “bottlebrushes” they don’t feel the attraction that I do…

Maybe that’s why I’m fascinated by them? Because they’re a little exotic here, representing a warmer place, and yet they effortlessly grow in my garden?
1 Callistemon viridiflorus foliage glow

I’ve planted two Callistemon viridiflorus, one in the front garden…
2 Callistemon viridiflorus foliage

And one in the back…
3 Callistemon viridiflorus buds

The thing that makes this particular bottlebrush special is the flowers, they’re a yellow/green…
4 Callistemon viridiflorus flower

Rather than the typical red, seen here on Callistemon ‘Woodlander’s Hardy Red’
5 Callistemon 'Woodlander’s Hardy Red’ flower

Which I love too! (and have planted 3)
6 Callistemon 'Woodlander’s Hardy Red’ buds

If the flowers aren’t enough to excite you, how about the seed pods? You can see both last years hardened pods and the current year’s “just bloomed” pods here on C. ‘Woodlander’s Hardy Red’.
8 Callistemon 'Woodlander’s Hardy Red’ seed pods

Heck there’s even a dwarf (to only 3ft tall), Callistemon viridiflorus ‘Xera Compact’, for those of you worried about space.
Callistemon viridiflorus 'Xera Compact'

We’ve had such a hot, dry summer here in Oregon I’m really appreciating how little water these beauties need. Oh, and there’s one other hardy bottlebrush in my garden, Callistemon sieberi. Although in this, the only photo I could find of it, it’s being upstaged by a blooming Parahebe perfoliata.
Callistemon sieberi and Parahebe perfoliata

So that’s my little post in praise of the much-maligned bottlebrush. Is there anything you grew up surrounded by that you’d never plant in your garden? For example, that question brings to mind another extremely common plant in California (they grow in street medians and parking lots for goodness sake) the Agapanthus, which we tend to love up here in Portland.

Oh and here are a few Callistemons I’d love to be able to grow, but they just aren’t quite cold-hardy enough to make it in my garden…