Many believe that, as the autumn rids the trees of leaves, the herbaceous borders of their plants, and signals the approach of winter, the garden fades out of existence. However, this is a time of great change in the garden and one which you can fill with glorious color if you’ve carefully selected specimens to add some vivacity to the bland tones of the colder months. And if you want an absolutely stunning shrub which will provide year round color before unveiling luminous berries in the cold snap, then Callicarpa is for you.
Throughout the year Callicarpa offers a rather generalized green to gardens, with its leaves and stems not significantly adding much but structure. At this time of year though it is the herbaceous plants that are in rampant abundance, and Callicarpa’s soft green leaves are a welcome backdrop. However, it is upon flowering in June and July that this wonderful plant starts taking on another appearance. Clustered around the stems collection of tiny pale purple flowers emerge, bringing surprising color which is just noticeable through the canopy of leaves.
It is when autumn approaches and Callicarpa drops its leaves that this stunning plant really comes into its own though. Ripening berries turn a luminous purple as if painted and polished with a manmade color. I find that the berries can last almost all winter as most birds don’t tend to find them that appetizing, allowing you to glance out of the window and be drawn by the wonderful hues. And set off by ice and snow you’ll find that Callicarpa is an amazing plant to enjoy both in a border and even in a pot as I grow it.
Name: Callicarpa (Beauty Berry)
Thrives In: A hardy shrub, Callicarpa is suited to both sunny and partial shade positions. You can plant this species in a border where it’ll happily thrive, though I grow two smaller specimens in pots with ophiopogan planted around the base.
Yearly Care: For younger plants little maintenance is needed as you can allow shrubs to grow naturally with some slight pruning here and there to ensure that a desired shape is kept. There is no need for berry removal as they’ll automatically drop, and other than pruning back when at its desired height, leave Callicarpa to thrive.
Growing Medium: Callicarpa can thrive in both well drained and heavy clay soils. However, it prefers an acidic medium, with alkaline positions causing its leaves to turn yellow.
Quick Tip: I prefer to grow smaller shrubs in pots. This means that you can move specimens around the garden in winter to get the best backdrop to show the vivid purple berries against.