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Bottle brush plant (callistemon) by Vanessa Armstrong

My hubby and I have a small but what we think is a lovely garden. It has a variety of shrubs and flowers and a couple of patio trees. Every year, we have a wander around the garden centres to see what we can add to our already stuffed borders.

A couple of years ago, we came across a rather unusual but beautiful shrub. It had flowers that once opened looked like bottle brushes. We discovered that it is called the bottle brush plant – otherwise known as Callistemon. The one we saw was a beautiful shade of red although you can get them in pink, white and purple. Unfortunately, we didn’t have room for it in our garden at the time.

Last year we had made some room, after a bit of juggling around with some other plants, but couldn’t find a callistemon anywhere! So we bought a photinia red robin and that is very happy in its home by our gate. In fact, it is so happy, it has grown over a foot in a month, so will need keeping an eye on!

This year, while out with a couple of Kitchen Witch friends, I found a yellow version of a Callistemon, but my heart was set on the red one, so that same week, husband and I set off to another garden centre and yes! – there were loads of glorious red callistemons and one did come home with us.

Callistemon is an evergreen shrub that is native to Australia. It has long hard leaves and along the top of the stem are the closed flower buds in rows that run along and round the stem. When ready to open, the tiny flower bursts forth lots of thin red spidery stamens each with a yellow end. The buds on each stem tend to open at the same time, giving it that familiar bottlebrush look. They are most fascinating!

Callistemon have been used for medicinal purposes – particularly in their native Australia. The plant is included in the Australian Bush Flowers Essences – used by holistic practitioners as a healing remedy. These essences have been used by Australian aborigines for 1000’s of years for emotional balance and to release negative feelings. These essences are still made today by modern homeopaths and are recommended for many things:-

* To help adjust to change and to cope with new situations that may occur – be it adolescence, parenthood, divorce, menopause, retirement or a death. It is said to ‘brush’ out the past and to move forwards with positivity. * Letting go of unwanted habits and routines.

It also has beneficial medicinal properties – it can help with constipation and an overloaded liver. It helps to keep things ‘flowing’ through and promotes a healthy energy in the digestive tract.   In Jamaica, it is used as a ‘hot tea’ for treatment of gastroenteritis and applied as a topic for skin infections.

Bottlebrush can be worked with magically too. The dried stamens can be added to incense and in spellwork for passion, love and fertility. The name ‘bottlebrush’ invokes ‘sweeping’ – therefore useful in clearing away negative energies, banishing and cleansing. The dried stems can be tied together and used as a mini besom or the dried leaves added to poppets, incense or burned in spellwork.

It is said that once the flowers have finished, small seed pods remain on the stems and may take many many years before the plants drop them. Fire is said to be the only thing that makes the shrub release its precious cargo of seed pods. This has given the plant associations with life, death and rebirth so again, is useful for spellwork for letting go what no longer serves and moving forwards to start anew.

Gender – Male Element – Fire Powers – Abundance, Fertility, Energy Colours – Red, Yellow, White

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