About this cultivar:
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Atropurpurea Nana' is a dwarf, dense, deciduous cultivar. One of the most popular of the many barberries in cultivation. Reddish to purplish leaves are of variable size appear on many branched, reddish-brown stems have sharp thorns. Tiny, yellowish flowers appear in late April to early May, but are often hidden by the foliage and are not considered showy. Bright red berries form in autumn and often last through the winter. The berries are attractive to birds. Often used for small hedges I think it looks better as a plant on its own!
Has the RHS AGM (Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit).
This cultivar is so well proven it is incredibly ubiquitous - to the extent that it appears in Architectural software for 3D models! See photo - quite realistic!
The specific epithet honors Swedish botanist Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828) who reportedly identified this species in Japan in 1784. Rumour has it: it was even growing as a hedge in its native habitat when Carl first saw it.
- Position: Full sun, Partial shade
- Soil: Almost any soil - grows well in Ballyrobert!
- Flowers: April, May, - berries in June, July
- Other features: Interesting Foliage or Fruit, Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit (RHS AGM)
- Hardiness: H7 - Hardy in the severest European continental climates (< -20°C), Fully hardy - grows well in Ballyrobert!
- Habit: Bushy
- Foliage: Deciduous
- Height: 30 - 60 cm (1 - 2 ft)
- Spread: 30 - 60 cm (1 - 2 ft)
- Time to full growth: 5 to 10 years
- Plant type: Shrub
- Colour: Yellow, red
- Goes well with: -
About this genus:
Berberis is a large genus (over 450 species in the wild alone!) of deciduous and evergreen shrubs from 1–5 m tall found throughout the temperate and subtropical regions of the world (apart from Australia). Berberis is a dense prickly bushy that will keep the most intent of intruders at bay, howvere the cultivars we have in our garden make up for this violent nature with fantastic gifts of structure and multitudes of colourful berries that follow dainty spring-flowers. Depending on the cultivar the summer-berries can be pale pink, to orange to white to yellow. Many cultivars also have incredible autumn foliage.
The Latin translation of an Arabic name given to its berries gives Berberis its name. Until quite recently fruits of the Berberis vulgaris species were grown and eaten in the British Isles, often as an appetizer or as a flavouring for meat and fish. The English apothecary and physician, Nicholas Culpeper (1616-54) wrote that "they get a man a good stomach".
The sap, inner bark and roots were also used as a yellow dye for leather and hair. This yellow colour must have been why this plant was thought to relieve jaundice and cure pestilential fever. Interestingly, modern medicine has confirmed that some plant compounds found in Berberis do have anti-bacterial properties and may also be useful in fighting ovarian cancer. Rumour has it the English apothecary and physician, Nicholas Culpeper (1616-54) left a letter dated 2014 stating "I told you so".
Ok – maybe too much info on this genus so far, but I find all this fun and fascinating: Charles Darwin named a Chilean species, darwinii. It was first recorded by him on the Beagle in 1835. Berberis thunbergii, commonly called Japanese barberry, gets its specific epithet from Dutch botanist Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1828) who reportedly identified this species in Japan in 1784. What where all those horticulturalists doing in Japan and Chile? Sleeping at the wheel...... Ah well, 'Irish Coffee' was supposedly invented at Sydney airport, so rest assured it is not just botanists that steal others thunder.
In the garden Berberis are tough plants capable of growing in all soils, except those that are waterlogged in winter. They also tolerate pollution, hence you see them quite a lot in towns. As long as they are not in complete shade they do fine.
Often thorny plants like Berberis are too aggressive for mixed borders where you would like to go in and work without being attacked by thorns. They can look great planted against a wall, fence, house or in a lawn. It almost an essential for a winter garden. Perhaps try with Pyracantha, Cornus, Forsythia or Euonymus.
Experiment? Despite our love of William Robinson at Ballyrobert we quite like to experiment with prickly plants in more formal mixed-borders; almost like sculpture, complementing, or replacing, shaped Buxus.