It’s a beauty

Beautyberries (Callicarpa) do not leaf until late in April, and then the foliage is unremarkable, as are the clusters of small white blooms (below) in late July that are arranged along the shrub’s arching stems. The shrub grows quite large, and its form is coarse and unsuitable for a prominent position in the garden.

But, by mid August the flowers have turned to small green berries, and late in the month these begin to ripen to glossy purple or white. Now you have discovered why this very ordinary shrub deserves a spot in the garden.

Though the American beautyberry is native from the mid Atlantic through the southeast (Callicarpa americana, above), the southeast Asian beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma, below) branches more densely, and is more commonly found in commerce.

In my garden the white berries of Callicarpa dichotoma var. albafructus (below) are larger and slightly more abundant than the purple, but this is possibly because it is planted in more full sun, and in damper soil. Both shrubs must be pruned back severely in early spring to remove dead branch tips, and to give the ungainly shrub a more compact form.

The purple berried beautyberry is planted a bit too far to the back of the garden, and though only a few feet from the white, it can barely be seen without crossing a spot of persistently muddy ground. Someday (I have told myself) I will place a few large stones to make it easier to traverse the muck, and then perhaps I will visit the beautyberry, as well as bottlebrush buckeye, viburnums, and the Persian witch hazel more frequently.

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