A Knock At The Door

Early one evening a few years ago, there was a knock at the front door. A smartly dressed lady was standing on the doorstep. “I hope you don’t mind,” she said. “But I often pass your garden and you are obviously a plantsman. Can you tell me what the shrub is with the pink leaves?”

Callicarpa dichotoma (autumn colour) - 2014

The shrub in question is Callicarpa dichotoma. It’s not seen as much as C. bodinieri ‘Profusion’ which is a shame. It’s a smaller version of its more popular cousin, reaching no more than four or five feet. In early summer, it carries insignificant mauve flowers, followed in autumn by berries of the same colour. As with ‘Profusion’, I’m sure mine would carry more if I had a second bush in the vicinity.

Callicarpa dichotoma (close-up) - 2012

But in October and November, it really comes into its own as the green leaves turn first red and then bright pink. A Google search for pictures of C. dichotoma fails to show the brilliant autumn colour that attracts such attention from my plant. So why does it do it? I think it is a combination of location and good luck. Acid soils promote better autumn leaf colour than alkaline ones, full sun helps, and a poor, dry soil contributes as well. But it seems I have a particularly good clone as well.

For added interest, I now have a couple of perennial sweet peas, lathyrus latifolius, clambering over it. By the time these have finished flowering and need cutting back, the callicarpa is just starting its autumn display. Plant it in your garden and you may be getting admiring visitors knocking at your door as well.

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