When I first read the tag, I read…
“Carol, I am the plant for you. Look at my pretty little variegated leaves. I promise to be a good plant if you’ll just plant me in your garden. I promise to not take up much room, and since I’m more of a shrub, I’ll provide a little structure to your new perennial border. Please buy me!”
It was love at first sight. I rubbed my eyes and read the tag again, just to make sure I’d read it right the first time….
The common Coralberry but with distinctively variegated leaves. Very appealing shrub that appears silvery from a distance. 3 to 4 ft. high and wide. Full sun to heavy shade.
How could I go wrong with this gem of a shrub? So I bought the little coralberry and planted it in my perennial garden, way at the very end. You know, that end of the garden which seems to be the last place you get to when you are weeding, because you always start weeding at the other end, so that by the time you get to that end, you are tired and don’t really get to all the weeds. That’s where I planted this little plant with so much promise.
Over the years, I forgot about it. It never flowered. It never had any berries on it. It was just a small shrub with variegated foliage. I let Snow-in-Summer grow up around its base. I planted a Baptisia to one side of it and a small ‘Miss Kim’ Lilac on the other side of it. I let tall weeds grow behind it, because it was on that end of the garden that didn’t get a lot of attention. Eventually, I even forgot its name.
I did notice that it was trying to spread by runners, and when I had the time and inclination, I whacked those back and tried to contain it, this now nameless shrub. I noticed that it was starting to encroach on the Baptisia, with its gorgeous purple flowers in the spring. It started to annoy me, this now nameless variegated leaf shrub that I surely once loved to have bought it in the first place. But we were clearly not on a first name basis. We barely spoke and when we did it was all questions about who are you, why did I buy you, what did I see in you to begin with and accusations about spreading out and taking up too much space. I was ready to pull it out once and for all.
Then the other night I looked through my plant tags to find its tag because I wanted to know its name before I dug it up. But I couldn’t find a tag so I put a picture on Twitter and asked for help with identification. Privet? No, not tall enough, and besides I’d never buy a Ligustrum of any kind. Eleagnus? No. Some conversations moved off to email, then back to Twitter. Finally, Annie in Austin suggested Coralberry after my mention of horizontal spreading above ground stems triggered a memory from one of her gardens.
Coralberry? That sounded right. I looked again at my tags, this time looking through the “dead plants” file and I found it. Yes, Coralberry!
I did some online searches and read more about it. I went out and looked at it. The species is native. It can grow just about anywhere. It’s good cover for small birds. I took some pictures. I saw some tiny blooms, which meant there would be berries, food for the birds. Perhaps I wished it gone too soon?
I knew it before I thought it. I’m not going to get rid of it. I like it now. The tag was right, even if it didn’t mention how it spreads. It is a pretty shrub.
But I promise myself and the Coralberry that from now on I’m going to contain it. I’m going to cut it back away from the Baptisia, and cut back that Snow-in-Summer at its base. And the next time I weed that perennial border, I’m going to start on that end, where the Coralberry is, where Symphoricarpos orbiculatus ‘Taff’s Silver Edge’ with its distinctively variegated leaves that appear silvery from a distance grows. I’m going to take care of it, this very appealing shrub that I would now seek out in the garden center if I didn’t already have it.
Welcome back, Coralberry!