We caught up with ABC’s Costa Georgiadis when he dropped in to visit us last month
Melaleucas are a distinctly Australian species from the same family as Eucalypts, Myrtaceae and are an excellent choice for your garden.
Although they are sometimes called tea trees, and the leaves of certain species are indeed used for the extraction of tea tree oil, the term tea tree usually applies to Leptospermums. The most common name for Melaleucas is paperbark because of the distinctive, soft, papery bark.
Paperbarks are great garden specimens. Why? Well, firstly, they range in size from small shrubs to trees, so there is surely one to suit your specific needs. Secondly, they have lovely bottlebrush flowers in a range of colours that attract honeyeaters and beneficial insects. Thirdly, although many are partial to wet feet, they will cope with dry conditions, are fast growing, require minimal care and are more tolerant of shade than many natives.
Melaleucas mostly flower in spring, though I have some flowering right now and I am hoping for a visit from a scarlet honeyeater who is an occasional visitor when the blossoms are out.
As with many natives, Melaleucas can straggle, so light pruning will result in a more compact shrub. Plant of the month is the red form of Melaleuca Pachyphylla (Wallum bottlebrush). This is a shrub to 1.5 metres that enjoys damp conditions and full sun.