How about growing something really different in your garden? Step forward Gaultheria ‘Gaulthier Pearl’ with it’s glossy, high fashion look and pearly white berries. I really think this is a ‘designer plant’, which is not just practical, but also ready to transform the look and feel of your garden and patio.
However, ‘Gaulthier Pearl’ almost didn’t exist. We have Johan Jansen and his powers of observation to thank for its existence. Johan spotted a small group of pearly white berries amongst hundreds of red berried plants. What a find! No breeding was required, as nature had already done that job for us!
A unique display for the late season garden
Gaultheria are low plants, never reaching much more than 15cm in height, but filling out widthways 30cm or more. Plants are tough and resilient, and can withstand the odd stray footstep! The foliage is thick, leathery and shiny, and plants actually create such a dense covering that weeds find it difficult to get through!
Come summer time, pretty lily-of-the-valley esque flowers push above that foliage canopy, later transforming into those fun white berries, which punctuate the plant like fairy lights! Where would you plant this beauty?
How was this plant created?
Johan and his sharp observation skills founded that original ‘Gaulthier Pearl’ plant over 10 years ago, however getting it into full scale production wasn’t easy! First, Johan needed to isolate the white-berried plant from all the surrounding red ones. Once selected, he harvested the seed from the white berried plant and then grew a selection of those plants. Next, Johan selected for the best shaped, compact plant with the special white berries.
It then took a few years to build up Gaultheria in production. When you launch a plant, you need to have enough for people to buy it, of course! Johan, and partners Plantipp, also wanted to assess the market and see where it would be best placed. ‘Gaulthier’ was indeed a new category of plant for the consumer, and it wouldn’t be enough that it just looked good. It would be important to educate the consumer with ideas for how the plant could be used, with top notch lifestyle photography- giving both practical and decoration uses.
What’s different about this plant?
There are very few white berried plants available to the home gardener, so this Gaultheria was already unique. It’s diminutive size made it even more appealing, however. Short, compact plants make an attractive impulse purchase, and go on to perform well in the garden- the ideal combination! As a shade lover, Gaultheria offers the gardener a useful ground cover option for beneath trees and shrubs, an area that can usually be hard to fill with any plant that would enjoy this barren patch.
I am sure the white berry is also less attractive to birds, as they’re used to seeking out coloured ones! Therefore, those fairy lights will stay intact on your plants!
The common name for Gaultheria is Eastern Teaberry and the berries are in fact edible, with a flavour often described as ‘minty’! Teaberry flavoured ice cream has been known! The dried leaves can also be used to make a tea, and Native Americans used them for medicinal reasons.
Where can you plant Gaultheria ‘Gaulthier Pearl’?
Gaultheria perform best in an acidic soil, so either mix in ericaceous (acidic) compost into your border before planting, or grow in troughs and patio containers of all shapes and sizes. From the Heather family, Gaultheria were first discovered in North America by enthusastic 18th century botanist Jean-Francois Gaulthier.
In the wild, these plants are part of the complex forest floor mix of acid-loving plants, which includes Heathers of all types. Think about partnering it with Heathers in your own garden displays, and making the most of those bright berries for autumn container mixes. Too few people make the most of autumn effect plants in our gardens! Don’t miss out on this golden season.
Where can you buy this plant?
Gaultheria ‘Gaulthier Pearl’ has become very popular across Europe, with 10,000 plants selling over the last couple of years. Scandinavia has been a popular market for this new plant, and the relaxed nature and soothing appearance of the plant really plays into the popular hygge trend. Germany has also been a strong market, where it’s used as an autumn-winter tabletop plant.
Plants are available in garden centres across Europe, with mail order options to follow.
How to grow Gaultheria ‘Gaulthier Pearl’:
Flowering time: June to July
Berrying time: October to December
Location: Border, troughs, patio pots
Soil: Moist, but well-drained
Light: Partial shade
Hardy: Survives down to -25C! Plant will come back every year.
Care: Very easy pruning, just trim as required, after flowering
Size: 15cm (6”) high x 30cm (12″) in spread
Shrub of the Month is sponsored by Plantipp, a company based in The Netherlands who handle the introduction of new plants into Europe (with Concept Plants doing the same job in North America). Gaultheria ‘Gaulthier Pearl’ was bred by Johan Jansen of Special Plant Zundert. Discover more of their creations here.
See every Shrub of the Month here.
**Gentle Warning: this post may be sponsored or include affiliate links, however please be assured that any products spoken about have the Plant Geek seal of approval.**
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.