ShadyGardens Blog

October 26, 2012

Drought Damage in my Georgia Garden

Filed under: Beautyberry, drought, dry, garden, gardens, Georgia, lady banks, mahonia, nursery, Shady, shrubs, tolerant, trees — shadygardens @ 3:31 pm
I took a walk in the garden today to assess the damage the drought has caused thus far. Many of the plants believed to be drought-tolerant have actually suffered quite a bit. I did find a few surprises when I noticed plants that still look great in spite of absolutely no water, so I thought I’d share them with you. 


Lady Banks Rose has not wilted, although she’s been in the ground only one year. I can’t reach her with the hose, so I was a little worried. 

Other shrubs and trees with no wilt are: American Beautyberry, Holly, Paw Paw, Spirea, Arizona Cypress, and Rosemary. 



Established camellias and viburnums look fine, while newly planted ones wilt again every few days and recover only after a deep soaking. 

Mahonia from Shady Gardens Nursery
Although it will plant itself in your garden wherever it likes, Leatherleaf Mahonia never wilts. It provides a rough texture in the garden with its tough evergreen spiny leaves and bright yellow winter bloom sprays followed by dark purple berries that are loved by songbirds. It requires shade. Although it does reseed freely, I do not consider it to be an invasive plant. 

Perennials that still look great are Hosta, Rohdea, sedums, and succulents. Hardy Ice Plant is great for dry sun—rewarding you with flowers that open in full sun even with no rainfall. 

If you decide to add any of these recommended plants to your garden during this drought, remember that no plant is completely drought tolerant the first year, so water weekly in the absence of rain. In other words, water weekly, because obviously, there is no rain!

September 28, 2012

Callicarpa Americana: American Beautyberry

If you like berries, American Beautyberry belongs in your garden. Callicarpa Americana, the American Beautyberry, is a deciduous shrub native to the Southeastern United States.

In early summer, tiny lilac flowers appear in clusters close to the stem. By autumn the flowers turn into bright magenta-violet purple berries. The beautyberries are ¼ inch drupes and packed tightly together in clusters that encircle the stem. Leaves usually turn a pale yellow shade in September and begin falling off the shrub soon after. Once the leaves are gone, the shrub is left with vividly purple berries encircling the bare naked stems until birds eat the berries sometime during the winter.

Callicarpa American Beautyberry
Shady Gardens Nursery

Callicarpa Americana is sometimes referred to as French Mulberry, although I cannot figure out why. I think the name American Beautyberry says it all. 

The Beautyberry is very easy to grow, thriving in any well-drained soil and even adapting to very poor soil. Plant in dappled shade beneath large oaks and pines. The edge of the woodland is ideal. 
Beautyberry is very drought tolerant once established, but water once or twice weekly the first year or two. After that, supplemental water is unnecessary, except perhaps in extreme drought. If the plant gets full sun, it will need more water.

Beautyberry can be grown in most areas of the United States, since it is hardy in USDA Zones 6-10.
Beautyberry is eye-catching either when massed or when planted as a single specimen in a woodland garden or shade garden. Callicarpa is great for a low maintenance natural garden where it contributes year round beauty and food for wildlife. Spring flowers and beautiful fall fruit make this an attractive landscape plant. Use it in semi-shade under tall pines or in full sun where foliage will take on a not unattractive yellow-green color that combines interestingly with the brilliant violet fruits.
Prune back severely in late winter for best berry production. I just cut back branches so all are about the same size and let my bushes grow large. However, Beautyberry can be kept small with an annual pruning in late winter or early spring. This shrub can be cut back as short as 4-6 inches tall every winter with no harm to the plant and without sacrifice of the berries.
To be sure your shrubs are loaded with berries, plant more than one of these beautiful plants.
And if purple is not your color, you might want to try one of the more rare forms.
Callicarpa Lactea has white berries instead of purple. I have encountered many a gardener requesting this shrub for their night garden. Plants with white berries or white blossoms really stand out at night while most other colors are barely visible. Additionally, white reflects the light from the moon. Can you imagine how lovely White Beautyberry would be in the floral arrangements for a Fall wedding? 


If you are partial to pink, you are in luck, because a rare pink-berried form has been discovered. Known as Callicarpa Sautee, it is named for the area in Florida where it was found. The Pink Beautyberry is perhaps the most rare form of all beautyberries. 

Once you see Callicarpa Americana loaded with berries, you will want one for your own garden.

September 12, 2008

American Beautyberry: Callicarpa Americana

Filed under: Beauty Berry, Beautyberry, Callicarpa, dought tolerant, native plant, native shrub. — shadygardens @ 5:12 pm

One of my very favorite plants of all is the American Beautyberry. One of the showiest of all native plants, Callicarpa americana, displays vibrant purple berry clusters all along the stems at a time when few plants are blooming in the garden.

Insignificant tiny blossoms appear in early summer, berries develop later in summer, beginning to change from green to purple in late August.

The bright purple berries are held tightly in clusters along the stems and between the leaves. The berries really begin to show off as they remain on the stems long after all leaves have fallen from the plant. Although we don’t get snow here, I’ve seen breathtakingly beautiful photos of American Beautyberry with snow and icycles. Wow!

Easy to grow and very drought-tolerant, Callicarpa Americana will grow quite large–up to 10 feet tall and wide, but it is easy to contain as a smaller specimen with just one pruning per year at the end of winter or early spring. Since the plant blooms and forms berries on new growth, you can conveniently prune when your climate begins warming up without sacrificing your berry production in fall.

American Beautyberry makes a lovely specimen shrub but is even more spectacular when massed in groups of 3 or more.

An added bonus is that songbirds like the berries, once they begin to shrivel. I suppose they sweeten a bit as they age.

Foliage is large, bright green leaves that are attractive even without blooms or berries. Deciduous leaves fall at onset of cold weather, leaving the bright purple very showy berries to remain well into winter, often as late as January, depending on climate.

One of the most showy American native plants that I know of, the American Beautyberry is worthy to be planted in every garden. Find one for your garden at http://www.shadygardensnursery.com/.

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