Garden Fairies and Beauty Berries

30 Sep 2019

Seasonal fall plants in the South

By Christine Hall

Fall in the Sandhills is a delight. The air cools, humidity calms and families flock to pumpkin patches and corn mazes. As October rolls through, children dream of brimming buckets of candy and exploring the neighborhood in their favorite costumes. Parents attend bazaars and the community becomes a-flutter with Autumn’s activities, color and crispness.

Fall means many things to our little girls, but one of their biggest joys is decorating for the season. We pull out boxes from the attic, the contents are unfurled, and the house quickly transforms into a tacky Halloween party – I mean – a beautiful Fall masterpiece.

One of my tricks to treating their thirst to decorate (and maintaining decency indoors) is to take them outside with some creative inspiration. I explain that Fall is a time to soak in nature’s masterpiece and take stock of its accomplishments during the season. Tending to the old and preparing for the new.

But that sounds boring to them. So, I slide right into Plan B and pull out our box of Fairy Garden décor. Their eyes light up like Halloween cats. As I walk the grounds, pick and prune, they scurry to find the perfect spot to stage their fairy-tropilis.

Their box is full of little houses, walkways, gnomes and mushrooms. Bridges and critters create miniature scenes among the brush. I have baited them successfully.

As they giggle and swirl around their fairy playground, I have time to spend in the garden. I first circle the yard with care and remove dead foliage, divide overgrown plants, dig up bulbs, and bring potted herbs and ornamentals indoors. By the time the girls have tired of fairy life, I have accomplished much, and have two empty buckets waiting. I hand them the buckets and send them off to collect seeds from the perennials. “Check the Cosmos, Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans for any seeds!” I chirp. “Who can collect the most, the fastest?”

By the time the girls have collected seeds, spotted interesting bugs, and reported back, I have a final task before “judging” their prized fairy gardens (please don’t make me choose.) We need to transplant some Beauty Berry bushes.

Beauty Berries

My daughters and I fell in love with Beauty Berries several years ago when my mother successfully transplanted one from her yard to ours. They grow quickly, are fairly resilient, and are exquisitely beautiful.

The American Beauty Berry, or Callicarpa americana, is a deciduous shrub that features abundant green foliage, lavender-pink, lilac-like flowers in the Spring that morph into vivid purple berries in the Fall. These berry clusters cling to the stems into Winter, attracting birds and providing a visual treat in the otherwise sleepy landscape.

We have several planted around our fence line and they have been a hit with the birds, as we have volunteers popping up in several other places – perfect for sharing! We dig up three specimens and prepare them for our friends.

If you have your choice in planting location, I recommend planting Beauty Berries as a backdrop to a small garden area, or against a porch or deck. Beauty Berries work great as a standout specimen, as the plant matures into a vase shape form. If you have more room (and specimens) to work with, try spotting them throughout the landscape. They pair well with cool weather ornamental grasses, which really shine this time of year. Beauty Berries need light shade and adequate water while growing.

Ornamental Grasses

If you don’t have ornamental grasses in your garden, make a trip to a nearby nursery and pick some up! Make note of which textures, colors and sizes you like and add a few to your beds and borders. Cool season grasses include: Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis Acutiflora), Festuca, and Helictotrichon.

Happy playing and planting!

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