Against the back fence, right beside the chicken run is an inelegant, rather twiggy shrub that overcomes its spring and summer shabbiness with an amazing show of almost artificial looking berries during fall and winter. Aptly known as Beautyberry, Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’ is festooned with bunches of small berries in a shade of purple that seems somehow unnatural.
But there they are, clustered on slender branches like some type of Dr. Seuss fruit. The unusual colour might be a warning to birds and other berry eaters, they musn’t be very tasty because they are only eaten in a hard winter, and even then only later when all the tasty stuff has been devoured or is covered in snow.
Which suits me just fine, I enjoy the glowing purple fruit against the grey fence, the colour combination befits the grey skies and dim light of fall and winter on the west coast. Plus the berries are a lovely alternative to holly in my Christmas wreath!
Callicarpa blooms in July, and the flowers are the same shade of purple, but they’re small and mostly hidden by largish, coarse leaves with no particularly redeeming qualities.
An easy keeper, Callicarpa grows quickly to 6 or 8’, I’ve already had to prune mine to keep it in check. It is untroubled by pests or disease and requires no special treatment. I did have to hose mine down several times during the summer because the hens kick up so much dust during the dry season that it was constantly covered in a thick layer of fine soil, but that was easy enough to do when I was refilling the chickens’ waterer.
I have read that Beautyberry is somewhat deer resistant, but can’t vouch for that as mine is planted in a deer free zone. It is quite cold hardy, surviving temperatures as low as -23.3 °C (-10 °F).
This unprepossessing shrub is a hard sell at the garden centre during spring, people don’t see past the exotic blooms of spring-flowering shrubs and trees, and few think to plan for colour during winter. But there’s precious little colour in the garden at this time of year, making me appreciate this Beautyberry all the more.