Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’

I’m not the weepy type. No sir, to me. Besides misting over whenever I hear the Mary Poppins version of “Feed the Birds Tuppence a Bag”, sobbing over The Velveteen Rabbit (that’s a children’s book?), and blubbering inconsolably whenever I see a Santa (what’s that all about anyway?), I maintain a stiff upper lip. Big girls don’t cry. But I’ve got to say, the callicarpa had my stoic lip quivering. Having waited a whole year in anticipation of those lilac-colored berries to form, seeing the branches strewn from here to Kansas was almost more than I could handle.

For anyone who hasn’t been following this feed, let me help you catch up. I’m still harping on the freak October snowstorm and its reign of terror. Actually, the callicarpas will survive just fine. Despite the fact that they’re shredded, the shrubs will live (theoretically) to produce berries next year. And the callicarpas would normally be a big part of the excitement right about now. Years ago, I installed a double callicarpa allee running down the side of my house. Originally, it was a double hollyhock allee which became Connecticut’s version of the rust belt. I never looked back when I dug them up. Except for early spring when they don’t break dormancy as rapidly as one would like, the callicarpa allee is pretty much a continual source of delight.

Although I experimented with ‘Issai’, ‘Duet’ (a variegated version), C. bodinieri ‘Profusion’ and ‘Alba’, I found ‘Early Amethyst’ to be superior on all fronts. It has a graceful, lacy form with branches stacked up like a series of tutus. All lined up in an allee, it’s a choreographer’s dream. Think Swan Lake. It has no foes (yet), it gets no blights (yet), and deer could care less (so far). The tiny pink blossoms glisten like diamonds in the summer sun and, in a normal year, the berry load is the talk of the town starting in September on ‘Early Amethyst’. Since their branches are strewn hither and yon, I guess I’ll just get a jump on spring cleaning and cut them back to the main stems. So far, they’ve remained sharp and tight due to the prune-back (usually performed in spring). And also thanks to the annual shearing, they don’t break apart despite the berry load.

last winter

My apologies to the various birds whose late winter treat won’t be on tap this year. Which brings us right back to “Feed the Birds Tuppence a Bag”, doesn’t it?

I promise. This will be the last blog whining about the storm. After all, our disaster was mild compared to Michael Phillips of Lost Nation Orchard. I just heard him lecture at the Berkshire Botanical Garden yesterday and his entire apple crop was knocked off in a hail storm last year. If you ever have opportunity to hear Michael lecture on his holistic orchard practices, don’t miss it. He’s awesome. Held a full room transfixed for 3 hours.

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8 Responses to Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Early Amethyst’

  1. Speaking of Kansas, I have a couple of Callicarpa here. Those purple berries are the jewels of the Kansas prairie and…so far…have escaped disaster.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Of course, this year pruning is not negotiable. It was done by a power much greater than me. But just wondering, Professor, have you ever left yours unpruned. And if so, what do they look like without the annual haircut? I’ve always clipped away in spring, and it’s a major job. I always wonder if it’s a necessary chore…???

  2. I gave a talk on shrubs the other night, and of course had big plans for calicarpa…”Early Amethyst” is also the mannerly cultivar I reccomend and was to play a large supporting role in th arrangements I was bringing for display, until the storm. Grrrr. I was mad I did not have little purple jewels playing off all the yellow mums and foliage, but even angrier still when I realized how I will miss them in my own landscape this winter. Tower Hill grows ‘Profusion’ which seems to be larger in form and berry , but as you say less graceful. Can I just say the allee is GENIUS!!!! You are a gardening goddess :0)

    • Tovah Martin says:

      What a heartbreak not to have the star of the show on hand for a lecture, Cheryl. And who would think? Talk about an ironclad plant that is always faithful. Except this year. Sounds like a great talk. Where did you give it and where are you giving it next? But thank you. The allee is my pride and joy — so I just drew a long, slow sigh of relief knowing that it’s just gone temporarily. It’s not often that I get things right = and this was only my second try (the hollyhock fiasco being my first attempt at the space). Genius? More like dufus. BTW, my ‘Profusion’ is downright gawky. As for ‘Duet’, has anyone seen a berry on that one? Not a one for me, and I think it’s on its 3rd year in my garden.

  3. was in Hopkinton and now I am thankfully on break from any speaking until after the holidays…it is one of my favorite presentations because it is so fast and furious trying to fit in over 50 shrubs and their interest Jan through dec…BUT ..I really logged back on to say I was scrolling through the new relase section on amazon trying to compile my wishlist when I saw your new book Great topic and gorgeous cover photo. congrats to you! I can’t wait to read it

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Sounds like a fab lecture, Cheryl — sorry that I missed it. And sharing local wisdom on shrubs is definitely a rare topic. I have a sister who lives near Hopkinton so I know that neck of the woods pretty well. And THANK YOU SO MUCH for the Amazon alert. I had no idea that The Unexpected Houseplant is already for sale. Gosh = seems like we just approved the cover a few weeks ago. Those folks at Timber Press don’t let any dust settle around them. I’m really excited about this book — it’s written very close to my heart. Feels like the book I always wanted to write…

  4. Shirley Thompson says:

    You stated, “Although I experimented with ‘Issai’, ‘Duet’ (a variegated version), C. bodinieri ‘Profusion’ and ‘Alba’, I found ‘Early Amethyst’ to be superior on all fronts.”

    May I ask you to contrast the “Issai” in comparison to “Early Amethyst”. Thank you.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Sure– I found ‘Issai’ to be a little more robust. But more importantly, it forms fruit much earlier–so there’s a longer season when the shrub is adorned with those wonderful berries!

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