Elegant berries amongst fantastic foliage
The first thing you notice about the boxberry, also known as Gaultheria procumbens or checkerberry, is the eye-catching berries. They're red, pink or white and last through to the spring. The foliage is also magnificent. The oval leaves are a fresh green for most of the year, and change colour to dark red or purple in the autumn. This particularly emphasises the colour of the berries. It’s a hardy groundcovering plant that grows sideways when planted in the soil. However, the checkerberry also looks fantastic in containers and pots on the patio or balcony. The plant can also be brought inside for a sustainable December vibe which is a little softer and more subtle than holly.
The flowers turn into beautiful berries
There is always something going on with the boxberry. In the spring the plant produces new, fresh green leaves. In the summer it displays small white or pale pink flowers in a fairytale bell shape. They're not spectacular in terms of size, but they do give a whole new look to the checkerberry. At the end of the summer the flowers transform into the distinctive berries. They look best in arrangements that make it possible to look down on them. You get the best appearance by placing the plant in a low bowl, wide low pot or container or in the ground.
Green until spring
The checkerberry is a member of the heather family and is related to evergreen stalwarts such as heather and rhododendron. These plants all have a fine root system and a strong preference for acidic soil which is not too dry. The checkerberry is native to the northern hemisphere in Asia and North America. The fruit are edible for some garden birds and small mammals. If planted in the ground it will save you some weeding over time. Its provides strong groundcover and likes to protect its space from intruders.
Wintergreen oil is obtained from the sturdy foliage of the checkerberry. This is used in alternative medicine as a massage oil to treat rheumatic pain, amongst other things. Wintergreen oil is also used in the production of sweets and medicines. In the areas where the plant is native, the small leaves are also often used to make tea, resulting in the nickname 'teaberry'. The cultivated garden variety is not suitable for human consumption.
● The checkerberry’s leaves smell lovely when you rub them between your fingers: warm and spicy with a hint of mint.
● In the garden it is a perfect match with bilberries and blackberries, since they like the same soil.
● The plant is named after the botanist Jean François Gaulthier (1708-1756).
● The second part of the name – procumbens – means 'flat’ and refers to Gaultheria's low, wide growth habit.
● In Russian folklore the checkerberry is a good winter spirit which helps people through the cold winter and reassures them that spring will come again.