An American Beauty for your Autumn Garden
In early fall, when many of our favorite summer blooms have faded and deciduous leaves are just warming up for their autumn spectacle, there's a native shrub that steps into the lacuna to show us something to marvel at. Rather unremarkable through the other seasons, the American beautyberry struts its stuff in the fall with blazing irridescent purple or magenta berries clustered along its branches. And this show lasts well into the winter, after the leaves have dropped! Eventually, the wild creatures will dine on the berries, but until then, the vivid, shiny fruits provide a feast for human eyes.
This native deciduous perennial, Callicarpa americana, naturally occurs in the southeast United States as well as the Carribean and northern Mexico. Hiking through the forest, you will most likely encounter it in sunny clearings or edges of the woods. But you can also enjoy it close to home, as it is a tough plant that adapts nicely to a garden habitat. It tolerates a wide range of soil types and pH, and is pretty drought-tolerant once established. For best bloom and fruiting, plant it in a sunny to mostly-sunny location.
I planted mine as a small transplant and it didn't bloom the first few years, but when it did, the bloom was prolific. The tiny pink or white flowers in late spring to early summer are barely visible from a distance, but don't worry; the pollinators will find them! You'll see evidence of that in August or September, when tight clusters of intensely colored berries form around the leaf axils.
The opposite leaves are large and eliptic with dentate margins, light green through the summer, and turning chartreuse and then yellow before they drop in the fall.
Depending on the variety and its location, this shrub will grow four to eight feet high and about as wide, with arching branches. But it can withstand severe pruning, so if it seems to be getting too big for its breeches, just get out the loppers in late winter, whack it down as far as you like, and it will come back in spring pretty as ever, just smaller.
The original North American people had many medicinal applications for this plant, and its leaves are still used today as an effective repellent for mosquitoes and other biting insects. Want to try it? Here are instructions: https://thegrownetwork.com/natural-bug-repellent-beautyberry/
Callicarpa plays an important role in our ecosystem as a food source for numerous species of birds including robins, cardinals, quails, and finches, and mammals including foxes, raccoons, squirrels, and opposums. Deer are reported to browse on the leaves, but in my experience, beautyberry doesn't appear to be one of their favorite items on the menu; they gobble up most of my other plants before they bother the beautyberry. Many different types of pollinators are attracted to the nectar; some lepidoptera larvae subsist on the leaves, but they don't harm the plant.
American beautyberry typically has very few pest or disease problems, none of them serious.
For a tough, easy-to-grow plant that is attractive in spring and summer and stunning from autumn into winter, American beautyberry is outstanding. But be sure to plant the Callicarpa americana. It's the only beautyberry species that's native to North America. Many exotic plants are harmful to our ecosystems and some are invasive. They simply don't belong here.
For more information:
November Garden Tasks & Tips
· Improve soil while it is still workable by adding lots of organic matter such as manure, compost or recycled green waste
· There is still time to plant tulip bulbs, daffodil bulbs and other spring flowering bulbs.
· Continue to transplant perennials throughout the fall and winter, as long as they remain dormant
· Transplant trees and shrubs – dig a large root ball and replant as soon as possible to prevent drying out
· Prune evergreens to shape
· After chrysanthemums have died, cut stems back to ground and lightly mulch
· Keep leaves raked from the lawn or mulch with mowed shredded leaves
· Clean and oil garden tools for winter storage
· Winterize the lawnmower - drain gas before storing for the winter
· Drain hoses and put them away so they don't freeze and burst
· Feed the birds and other small creatures which may not be able to find food
· Enjoy the warmth of the fireside – stay warm, dry and healthy!
Kathy Booker, GMEV
Snips and Tips from the September Garden
Fall is just around the corner. The first day of autumn or the autumnal equinox arrives on Saturday, September 23, marking the first official day of fall. The change of seasons doesn’t mean that gardening chores stop; it just means time to change the focus:
· Start clean-up in the flower beds
· Stop pruning and fertilizing
· Deadhead Shasta daisies and roses; remove spent annuals and other plants that have finished blooming or showing disease
· Divide and move perennials
· Take cuttings to overwinter indoors
· Begin collecting seeds for next year’s plantings
· Start planting of spring bulbs; wait until soil temperature is 60◦ or below
· Plant trees and shrubs toward end of month; be sure to keep them well-watered
· Gather remaining vegetables from the garden
· Plant cool weather vegetables - broccoli, collards and cabbage plants
· Time for the first application of fertilizer on fescue grass; this cool season turf needs fertilizer in September, November, February and April
· Replenish or add mulch to control weeds and protect plants as the weather cools
· Begin adding leaves and other materials to the compost pile
· Be sure to check those patio plants for insects before bringing those plants indoors
· Enjoy the cooler weather and the beginnings of autumn!
Kathy Booker, GMGEV, Rabun County
Snips and tips from the august garden
It’s a hot month! Here are some garden tips and tasks for those sizzling summer days of August:
· Gather herbs and flowers for drying and preserving in the midmorning after the dew has dried – herbs are often at their peak for drying when they begin to flower.
· Collect cuttings for new plants – focus on stem cuttings from herbaceous, hardwood, and semi-hardwood shrubs and climbers.
· Prepare garden beds for fall plantings by cleaning out weeds and cutting back overgrown plants.
· Work early morning shifts before it becomes too hot. Be sure to stay well hydrated.
· Remove dead limbs and branches from trees and shrubs. Prune trunk suckers.
· Keep deadheading spent blooms unless planning to collect seeds.
· Refresh mulch as needed – keep soil covered to help discourage new weed growth.
· Remove any diseased foliage now. Dispose of diseased plants in the garbage or burn them. Don't put them in the compost pile.
· Continue to provide moisture locally to the base of plants - avoid surface watering which encourages plant roots to come to the surface. Vegetable gardens, most flowering plants, and the lawn all need about one inch of water every week to keep them looking healthy and productive.
· Still time to plant quick growing plants such as herbs, cilantro, Swiss chard, lettuce , spinach, and endive.
· Enjoy the variety of vegetable harvest from the home or community garden.
· Order spring bulbs now for the best selection – most companies deliver them at the appropriate time for fall planting.
· Visit your local library – get a good book to read while the temperatures and humidity are high.
· Share the garden production!
Kathy Booker, GMGEV – Rabun County
Snips and tips from the JULY garden
Summertime is definitely here! Plantings are pretty much done, and the main objective now is to keep everything healthy. The weather is hot, so July is all about the garden (flower and vegetable) maintenance – irrigation, weed suppression, staking, pest control, dead-heading, and enjoying the finished product!
· Water, or the lack thereof, is the most challenging task in keeping plants nourished and looking good during the hot days of summer. Rain may be scarce, but the need for water is plentiful. The best time to water plants is in the early morning unless you’re using a drip method.
· Keep weeds under control: they utilize water and take up nutrients. Establish a weed removal routine. Weed, weed, weed!
· Stake and tie - keep an eye out for plants that become leggy and droop. Provide supports to keep flowers and fruit off the ground.
· Pest surveillance – note that aphids, leaf miners, spider mites, whiteflies, black spot, Botrytis Blight, and beetles may appear. Check with the UGA Extension Service for the best control method to use for each.
· Deadheading is a task that must be done regularly throughout the growing season. It is nothing more than removing dead or spent flowers from the plant. It will make the plant neater, encourage more flower buds, help plants conserve energy, and prevent seed formation.
· Begin planning for the fall garden.
· Take a bite of a juicy tomato or blackberry or pick a lovely rose. You’ll remember why you are into gardening!
· Get a cold drink and head for the hammock. Enjoy those “hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer – you’ll wish that summer could always be here”.
Members of the Headwaters Master Gardener group enjoyed a real treat on June 20th holding their monthly meeting at the home of member Laura W. The tour of the historic home and expansive gardens was educational and enjoyable. Thanks Laura for hosting us!
White County Farmer’s Market
Fresh produce plus handmade crafts and other treats available every Saturday morning at White County Farmer’s Market, Freedom Park in Cleveland, GA. 7:30 am till Noon (or until sell out). Headwaters Master Gardeners (projects and gardeners in Habersham, Rabun and White counties) support this effort as a community service project and are on hand to answer your gardening questions and provide info sheets on gardening projects.