Plant separation: Callicarpa rescue

By February 3, 2024 No Comments


I love Callicarpas. Every year I do final fall clean-ups for a client in Coquitlam, BC, and she has a beautiful Callicarpa shrub in her front garden. And every year the purple berries look awesome; at a time when the rest of her garden looks like it’s ready for a break.

So, of course, I leave it alone. I snap a few photos for my files and maybe make a few cuts in the back where the shrub is touching the fence. That’s it. You don’t have to do much in late fall. Just enjoy the show.

Pro tip: be careful in summer when the shrub sends shoots out. The flower clusters look small. Much smaller than the berries so don’t snip them off.

January 2024

Now, just this past week I was doing bedwork in White Rock when a crew member asked me to rescue a Callicarpa shrub from under a cedar tree. Since I was looking down, I hadn’t even noticed the shrub.

Our native cedars (Thuja plicata) are fast-growing trees. They don’t need much time to swallow up a small shrub. Really all I could see was a few purple berry clusters.


Now, lifting the cedar off the shrub is fairly easy but we need to do it discreetly. We can’t just hack up the cedar to make some room for the shrub. So, I carefully reached in and followed the lowest cedar branches far inside the tree. Then I made my cut there, eliminating the whole branch so it looked natural. As opposed making heading cuts on the cedar tree and leaving the cuts to show.

Don’t rush this work! Make a cut and step away to see how much lift you’ve achieved. It should look natural: just enough opening for the shrub and not too much lift for the cedar.

Good enough?

Take a look at my work: is it good enough?

Note how the Callicarpa is reaching out, stretching for light. That’s why there are only a flower clusters showing. All plants need light to feed themselves and to thrive. I’m hoping this Callicarpa will appreciate having more light. I suspect we’ll have to do this again in a season or two but that’s ok. If I remember, I will check back to see if there are more flower clusters present eleven months from now.

Plant separation is an important issue as gardens mature and evolve. You can make room for some plants; and some you have to move. Some that didn’t make it will get removed.

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