A Gardening Journal

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Kwangtung Beautyberry

Callicarpa kwangtunensis for flowers 071515 640 

 

Most beautyberries are one-season wonders. Yes, their Fall show of metallic lavender berries is sui generis, and a thrill for that reason alone. The rest of the year, though, the bushes are a snooze. But this chinese species of beautyberry is beautiful Spring to Fall, not just when in fruit.

 

Hello, Callicarpa kwangtungensis—and the kind people of Kwangtung, wherever you are. Stems of the usual forms of Callicarpa are green or tan; these are burgundy. Their leaves are small and green; these are large, emerge burgundy, and mature to burgundy-veined. Their flowers are tiny and pink, and barely visible; these are white and a bit bigger and, thanks to the contrast of the burgundy of their pedicels, let alone that of the calyces, stems, and leaf veins, they are very showy. They froth up the shrub for much of July. 

 

Callicarpa kwangtunensis for leaves 071515 640 

 

Callicarpa usually bears a larger crop of berries when two or more forms are grown adjacently. Elsewhere in my garden, the white-berried Callicarpa japonica 'Leucocarpa' is nearby one of the usual lavender-berried species, C. dichotoma. Their displays of white and lavender berries are greater than if either were grown alone.

 

C. kwangtungensis is worth growing even if it never berried, just to give yourself the opportunity to say its name aloud. Mine is far across the garden from the other two beautyberries above—too far to benefit from cross pollination. Does the species self-pollinate, or will I need to plant a second so each can please the other? Or—as with my other Callicarpa—does the best cross-pollination occur across species, not just among individuals of the same? And if so, which species? There are well over a hundred worldwide. Will any other do, or need it be another of the Asian ones? Ah, Callicarpa: Always so many choices, combinations, and possibilities.

 

Even if my shrub of C. kwangtungensis must face life as a soloist, its floral and foliar performance is so distinctive and detailed that its prominence in my garden is assured. Stay tuned for the Fall report: Perhaps this species also berries even as a soloist.

 

 

Here's a look at the exciting white berries of Callicarpa japonica 'Leucocarpa', as well as information on how to grow it. The hardiness and handling of Callicarpa kwangtungensis is the same, although in Zone 5, it is reported to form berries too late to escape hard frost.   

 

Here's a look at the startling display of the lavender-berried Callicarpa dichotoma. Its hardiness and handling are the same as for C. japonica.

 
 
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