The Plump Purple Clumps of the Autumn Garden

Could there be anything more lovely in the fall garden than Beautyberry? It’s unique. People frequently stop to stare. I’ve often heard, “What is that?” and “Where do I get one??

The name beautyberry is delightful, but its Latin name, Callicarpa, is lilting on the tongue. It literally means in Greek callos – beautiful and carpos – fruit.

Another plus is Callicarpa americana is native to the southern United States and well adapted to native fauna and climate conditions. Birds and butterflies feast on them. The brilliant amethyst of the plump clumps of berries can be spotted by song birds from great heights. Added to that, the berries persist long into winter after the leaves have turned yellow and fallen.

 I bought ten bareroot plants two winters ago from a grower in Tennessee. Ten little whips were shipped through the mail. They were stashed in pots until the weather warmed and went gangbusters when set out in the early spring. Berries appeared their first fall. To keep them on the small side I cut them back to six inches in late winter.

 Volunteers appeared this summer which were promptly transplanted to the native garden at our public library where they will get more amazed looks and surely thrive.

.   Plantsmen have been busy working on cultivars with pink berries and white ones. There are Callicarpas native to Asia (Callicarpa bodinieri – China, Callicarpa japonica – Japan and Callicarpa dichotoma – China, Japan, Korea). But our Master Gardener class has opened my eyes to the importance of choosing natives.  Beautyberry shows in spades that natives excel in low maintenance. If they’re comfortable where you put them nothing much more than a shovelful of compost in spring is needed. They will reward you and your yard by supporting pollinators and wildlife; they will contribute to the ecosystem; they will preserve biodiversity. If you can, stick to the native Callicarpa americana.

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