I love purple in the garden, it’s an oft overlooked colour choice by most people. Sure, we see a lot of purple annuals, especially petunias and pansies, but not many purple bulbs or shrubs. Perhaps because it can be so bold most gardeners are wary to use it, it really does have a lot of presence in the garden, and depending on the shade it can really pop.
I want to show you two examples of this beautiful colour in my fall garden, I took these photos just last Sunday, a cold but sunny fall day. These plants are set off by the oranges, reds and golds of the changing leaves all around them, making them stand out all the more. I really like them for that, just when the rest of the garden is thinking about settling down for the winter, out comes the purple, bold and brash and screaming “Hey, we’re not done yet” in everyones faces!
This is one of many Asters in my garden, but it’s my absolute favourite. I adore the little frilly petals and the yellow and brown centers. Believe it or not, this is only one plant, and it’s huge, close to 7ft across! It’s very hard to miss on a sunny day, and it makes a cold, drizzly day sing.
This little fella is probably one of my all time favourite small shrubs. It’s very unassuming for most of the year, I cut it back in the Spring, it grows a bit, puts out new branches arranged with very ordinary mid green leaves all the way up the stems. In summer you will find lots of tiny, pale lilac flowers at the base of the leaves; there’s no perfume, no pizazz, nothing to make you take notice of it. But when the flowers fade they leave behind tiny green berries which colour up over the late summer, until suddenly you’re out in the garden one day and you absolutely stop dead in your tracks and stare with amazement at the little ugly ducking of a plant that has suddenly turned into a swan right in front of you. This is a Callicarpa bodinieri, and it is the jewel of the Fall garden. Those, tiny little insignificant green berries have just turned the most amazing shade of metallic neon purple, and there’s not just a few of them, there are absolutely hundreds and hundreds of tiny amethyst jewels strung across every branch like little strings of fairy lights. It’s like you’ve stumbled into a magic kingdom and you peer into the undergrowth searching for signs of a fairy village and toodstools, little pixies and elves, and perhaps, a wishing chair. Something must have happened in the night to have created such an stunning transformation, and though I’ve hunted in vain to find them, I still think it’s the fairies and their tiny little pots of metallic purple paint.
The common name for this shrub is Beautyberry, and left to it’s own devices it will grow 6 – 8ft, however, I wait until the leaf buds appear in early Spring and then I cut it down to the first set of new leaves, that way I can keep it a manageable 4ft all round. It responds very well to the severe haircut I’ve been giving it for the last 10 years, so don’t be put off when you see the “up to 8ft growth” advertised on the label. The leaves don’t last long in the fall, they drop quite quickly, but that just allows you admire the beautiful berries unhindered, and due to the extremely bitter taste of the berries themselves, the birds don’t touch them, consequently my lovely purple berries often last well into January. They finally succumb to the worst of the the winter weather and become withered and brown, but by then it’s only a couple of months until it gets its yearly haircut and the whole cycle starts again. Hunt it out, it’s well worth the effort.
And finally, just to show you what’s setting these colours off right now, this is my Burning Bush living up to its name and setting my garden alight with its day-glo orange and red leaves.
Edit: I have absolutely no clue what WordPress is doing with the fonts and the colours of this post!! Most of it seems to have come out in dark purple which is uncannily odd given the subject matter!!!