Photo: Steve Bender

Judy and I have an agreement. She's the Queen of the House. Whatever she says about the inside goes. I'm King of the Garden. I enjoy supremacy there. But very occasionally she requests a special plant be added and the King cannot deny her. So it was this week with a shrub she liked called beautyberry.

I had no idea Judy even knew what a beautyberry is. But then I remembered she remarked about how pretty some native beautyberries were that we'd recently seen during a week's stay at Grayton Beach, Florida. "Why can't we have a beautyberry in our garden too?" she asked. And when a woman looks as hot as Judy, you'd be a fool not to grant her request.

emThe Queen. Photo: Steve Bender/em

Now you understand.

Judy and I hopped in the car in quest of a beautyberry to add to the garden. We drove to a very fine nursery in Jemison, Alabama named Petals From the Past that specializes in old-timey plants. Immediately, I spotted a block of bushes laden with bright purple fruit sitting in the nursery yard. But they weren't the native species we'd seen in Florida. These were better.

Our native American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a large, rather coarse shrub with big green leaves 6 to 8 inches long. It grows up to 8 feet tall. Clusters of brilliant purple fruit encircle its stems. Purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dischotoma), the kind we bought, hails from China and Japan. It's smaller and more refined than its cousin, growing about 4 feet tall with leaves 1 to 2 inches long. In fall, gracefully arching branches carry purple berries atop foliage that turns soft yellow. These berries are smaller than those of it cousin, but their sheer abundance compensates.

How to Grow Beautyberry It's easy. All beautyberry needs is full to partial sun and moist, well-drained soil. No pests (including deer) or diseases seem to bother it. The shrub blooms and fruits on new growth, so I recommend cutting it down to 8 to 10 inches tall in winter. This promotes fast, new growth chock-full of flowers and berries. Purple beautyberry slowly becomes a spreading clump and is easy to divide with a shovel in late winter or early spring if you want more plants.

That Sure Was A Great Idea I Had The Queen is very happy with her new beautyberry. This is good. For as we all know, if the Queen ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.