Posts Tagged ‘Fall foliage color’

This week is my One year anniversary of this blog. I have endeavored to bring you the best plants which I can find each week which look their best. Each season has brought its challenges in doing this, the weeks of cloudy weather or rain, the color drought during the middle of summer and weather which is too icy and snowy that I can not go out to take pictures or find new specimens to write about.  I thought I would start of this year with a splash of unusual color not only for this season but for in the garden. This is a plant which I was introduced to at Park & Tilford Garden while i was still in school and am alway on the lookout for it. Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ (Beautyberry) brings a jaw dropping display of color to the garden.

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion'

The strong magenta color of Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii 'Profusion' is indeed a 'Beautyberry' of the first rank.

There are many species of Beautyberry with most of them growing in tropical and subtropical areas. Most of them are in the form of shrubs or small trees. Several species come from more temperate areas. Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii is found in central and western China. It was collected by French Missonary Emile Marie Bodinier (1842-1901) who was a known botanist and was stationed in Peking for some time.  He collected more that 3000 herbarium samples during his lifetime of which about 200 are named, Beautyberry is the most important of these.


This Beautyberry is found in the Winter Garden at Government House.

Callicarpa are from the Verbena family (Verbenaceae) and has aromatic leaves, this makes it less attractive for Deer to browse upon. In China and Japan it has been used medicinally.  The fruit of this particular species is not considered edible do to it’s poor flavor.  The American form of this plant (C. americana) or French Mulberry in the past has been used to make delicious and popular jellies and jams.

Beautyberry contrasts nicely against the trunk of this Douglas Fir in the winter sun.

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ was selected for its more compact growth and better crop of berries. It was awarded an AGM(Awrd of Garden Merit) in 1984. Emerging spring foliage has bronzy tints and later in the fall the leaves turn shades of madder and pink before they are shed. Leaves are elliptical with a sharp point and are 2-5in. (5-12cm) long and half as wide. Flowers are small with a faded mauve color and are not really that showy when in bloom. Bloom period is from June to October depending on where you are, here it is fairly early.

This Beautyberry glows in the winter sun at Glendale Gardens.

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ is a undemanding plant and you get several seasons of interest from it. They prefer light well drained soil which is on the acidic side. They tolerate some clay or even heavy soils as long as it is not too limey which will cause yellowing of the leaves.  To produce the best berry crops Beautyberry needs full sun, but will do very well in part shade.  A spot in the winter that shows it off will be fantastic. These plants are often planted in grows of 3 or 4 as this produces the best show of berries. Beautyberry plants are are used in shrub borders, mass planting, in winter gardens or a specimens.


The bright mauve berries are small but are produced in masses to make a showy display.

Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’ is surprising hardy and takes -20c (-4f) easily and is rated at zones 6 through 8. Berries are not damaged by freezing. They do not do well in warm climates. Can you imagine going outside after a snowfall and seeing this bush loaded with berries… beautiful. These shrubs grow 1.8-2m (6-8ft) tall and have a slightly arching habit. They can be pruned to promote more branching and better berry crops.

Calicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii Profusion

Calicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii Profusion is one of the brightest plants in the garden right now.

More on Beautyberry:

Paghat’s page on this plant: http://www.paghat.com/beautyberry.html

RHS page for the plant: http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardens/Wisley/About-Wisley/Plant-of-the-month/October/Callicarpa-bodinieri-var–giraldii-Profusion

Until we meet again later…

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Every year this late in the season many of the native trees and shrubs here are suffering from drought conditions and start shedding their leaves. Fall here is drab with dried brownish leaves caused by the dryness. My mother commented on how drab it is here compared to the interior where glorious golden Birch and Poplars color swaths along hills and valleys. Happily there are good plantings in the mot surprising places which are enlivened with the best of fall colors from around the world. One place near me is a big mall which has spectacular shades or orange, peach and reds starting with the Sweet Gum(Liquidambar styraciflua) which provides a backbone of crimson running through the parking lot.

The Sweet Gum trees in Broadmead Village Shopping Centre in Saanich B.C.

The Sweet Gum trees in Broadmead Village Shopping Centre in Saanich B.C.

We are lucky here that we can grow plants from anywhere in the world. Sweet Gum come from south eastern North America, growing from Connecticut in the north moving west to the very southern edge of Ohio and south to Florida and down through mexico into mountainous areas of Guatemala.  They have long been used by the various native groups medicinally. Medicinally the resin(sweet gum or liquid amber)  was used as a balm for various ailments but has been found to be not particularly useful. It’s sweet scent has meant it has been used in the as a fragrant adhesive, the manufacture of incense as well as in perfume industry. The resin was collected and used as a chewing gum. At one time the gum was mixed with wild tobacco and smoked at the court of the Mexican emperor.

Liquidambar styrciflua (Sweet Gum) are amoung collection of trees at  the Institute of Ocean Sciences in North Saanich.

Liquidambar styrciflua (Sweet Gum) are among collection of trees at the Institute of Ocean Sciences in North Saanich.

Francisco Hernández (1517-1587) was a botanist studied Mexican flora and was the first to write about Sweet Gum trees in his work published in 1651. He wrote about a large tree which produced a fragrant gum which was amber in color. The tree was brought to Europe by John Bannister( a missionary) in 1681 and specimens were planted at Fulham Palace Gardens. At that time it was called Styrax liquida.

The fruit of the Sweet Gum tree is a multi-capsuled bauble which is unpleasant to step on.

The fruit of the Sweet Gum tree is a multi-capsuled bauble which is unpleasant to step on.

One of the main reasons for planting Liquidambar styraciflua is it’s wonderful fall colors. It has a very wide range of shades ranging from a black plum through reds and crimson into oranges and peaches. This quality makes many people long for this tree when they move to other places. There is nothing like seeing the hills dotted with the flaming reds as autumn  as it starts to cool off. The leaves of this tree seem to keep their color for extended periods than many others, so we get to enjoy the effect for longer than most other species which drop their leaves quickly after they start to color up.

A crimson bed of Sweet Gum leaves under a crispy brown Red Oak leave.

A crimson bed of Sweet Gum foliage under a crispy brown Red Oak leaf.

Sweet Gums are often mistaken for Maples and they are not. Liqiudambar styraciflua are members of the Witch Hazel family. You can tell they are not maples by their fruit which is a spiky ball. Their leaves are attached to branches in an alternate pattern, whereas Maple leaves are always in opposite pairs. Sweet Gums also have interesting corky twigs which are ditinct from smooth Maple branches.

The very 'Maple-like' leaves of Liquidambar styraciflua.

The very 'Maple-like' leaves of Liquidambar styraciflua.

Sweet Gums do grow to be stately trees of up to 40m (130ft) so placement is important.  They tolerate zones 6-10 (-5c and up). They grow best in deep, rich, slightly acid moist soil. These are trees which like wet conditions and often grow in swampy areas. Full sun is a must to get the best color display in autumn. I see these trees used in many places, boulevards, parking lots school yards and other tough places.  They are also used as specimens. there are quite a few cultivars (clones) to choose from which give options in hardiness, shape and form, less seedy and color options. There should be one that will fit into any need.

Shades of Liquidambar styraciflua in a pond.

Shades of Liquidambar styraciflua in a pond.

Be sure to be on the look out for Sweet Gum in the coming weeks as the autumn season becomes  more pronounced in your area.

More About Liquidambar styraciflua:

Some excellent photographs of the flowers, fruit and bark of Sweet Gum: http://www.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/list.html

The Institute of Ocean Sciences in North Saanich has good specimens of many trees: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/science/facilities-installations/ios-ism/index-eng.htm

Description of growing the tree and list of common cultivars(clones) available: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ldplants/list.htm

In depth description of growing and knowing Sweet Gums:


Until We Meet Again Later…..

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