Beautyberry is showing off again this fall, showing us why it has the common name beautyberry.
For some people, beautyberry refers to Callicarpa americana, a shrub native to the southeastern United States, hardy to zone 6, maybe just zone 7.
For others, beautyberry refers to Callicarpa dichotoma, a shrub native to parts of Asia, hardy to zone 5.
Guess which one I planted in my garden?
I planted Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’.
I would have preferred to plant the native variety but it isn’t as easy to find for sale around here, probably because it’s likely to have considerable dieback over the winter since it is only hardy to zone 6 or 7.
In the spring, I always cut my beautyberry back quite a bit and let new growth come up from the roots and stem sections I’ve left. Otherwise, it would look half dead because a lot of the growth dies back in the winter, making me a little suspicious of its advertised hardiness zone.
After I’m done cutting it down to almost nothing, I always wonder if I finally went too far and it isn’t going to come back.
But sandwiched between a native Diervilla and a non-native Viburnum, with an oak tree towering over it, it always responds to my severe cutback by sending out new growth. Then it kind of just sits there all summer before producing those lovely berries. (Yes, it does flower. Tiny white flowers.)
Some springs I think maybe it’s time to let the beautyberry go and just dig it up and let the Diervilla grow into that spot. It would, too, if I let it, because it spreads by runners. I usually yank off just enough of the runners to let the poor beautyberry have a little breathing room.
But then I forget about it all summer until I see the berries again in the fall and once again, I decide it’s a nice shrub to have mixed in with other shrubs. It gets to stay another year.
After all, if a shrub was a big standout all season long, we would soon get bored with its beauty.
Eventually birds eat the berries, or garden fairies steal them, polish them up, and use them for decorations here and there. Regardless, by spring the berries are gone, and it is once again time for me to cut it back and wonder once again. Is it worth it?
(Garden fairies say yes, it is worth it.)