Melaleuca incana ‘Velvet Cushion’ develops into a compact, rounded shrub to about 60 centimetres high by 60 centimetres wide.
It is a dwarf form of Melaleuca incana – a species from the south-west of Western Australia (see profile in shrubs over 1 metre).
Melaleuca spp. can present with simple and alternate or opposite leaves. In this cultivar, soft, hairy grey leaves, to about 17 mm long by 4 mm wide, are carried on pendulous branches; linear to elliptic and tapering to a point.
In Melaleuca species, flowers are usually arranged in spikes or heads. Within the head or spike, the flowers are often in groups of two or three. Flowers have five sepals (sometimes fused into a ring of tissue) and five petals which are typically small and do not persist on the flower for long.
Like many other Myrtaceae genera, the flowers are conspicuously staminate with each flower having many stamens surrounding one carpel. The stamens are typically fused into five separate bundles (staminal claws) which each bundle sitting opposite a petal (a generally useful identifying feature for the genus to distinguish it from Callistemon). Melaleuca flowers do not have pedicels (sessile).
In this cultivar, small cream brushes appear in late spring and early summer, consisting of up to 60 staminate flowers; usually white to cream to yellow in colour; each flower about 4 mm wide by 20 mm long. Some publications state that ‘Velvet Cushion’ does not flower freely. As may be seen from the image, our specimens [in a cold-climate garden near Armidale, NSW] bloom profusely and conspicuously during the flowering period.
Melaleuca incana ‘Velvet Cushion’ is an eye-catching shrub at any time. Growth habit, foliage and flowers are all attractive features. The only maintenance required is a light, overall prune once the flowers fade.
‘Velvet Cushion’ would be an ideal addition to larger rockeries or as an edging plant in native garden beds.
It is a small bush and so suited to many gardens.
Reportedly, this cultivar has not thrived well on the east coast of Australia, especially where humidity is high. But worth trying.
All cultivars must be propagated by cuttings to maintain ‘true-to-type’ forms.
The genus Melelauca has been subject to recent taxonomic revision with early and recent botanists including Ferdinand von Mueller and Lyndley Craven (deceased in 2014) proposing to expand the genus to include all Callistemon spp. and others. Craven et al. (2014) published new species combinations which included the renaming of all Callistemon species to Melaleuca, based on evolutionary relationships and DNA evidence and other features.
Currently, the NSW Herbarium advises that the Callistemon genus can still be used.
Melaleuca is a genus of about 220 species, occurring mostly in Australia, but also Malesia and New Guinea. Australia has about 215 species with 210 reported endemic, occurring in all states. NSW currently has 30 species.
Melaleuca – is derived from the Ancient Greek mélas (μέλας) meaning “dark” or “black” and leukós (λευκός) meaning “white”, apparently because one of the first specimens described had fire-blackened white bark.
‘Velvet Cushion’ – named for the appearance of the shrub combined with its texture.
Botanic Gardens of South Australia – Plant Selector – Melaleuca incana ‘Velvet Cushion’ profile page https://plantselector.botanicgardens.sa.gov.au/Plants/Details/17367
Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.