Saturday, March 6, 2010

Aucuba -- the "Holly" of the Shade Garden

On a recent trip to the Knoxville Botanical Garden, I was re-introduced to a shrub, not used as much as it should be - gold dust plant (Aucuba japonica). Hardy to garden zones 6b-10, aucuba is at home in part sun to heavily shaded areas in the garden. Direct sunlight, even in the darker winter season, will scorch the foliage.
I've enjoyed a "plain green" foliage variety in my landscape over the past 16 years. It is tucked among three Japanese maples. Its holly-like leaves and bright red berries (on female cultivars)become more noticeable after the surrounding maples have surrender their fall plumage.
Many gold leaf cultivars sparkle in an otherwise dreary winter garden. Many cultivars abound. I particularly like 'Picturata', exhibiting large bright golden splotches in the center of each leaf and splashed by tinier yellow specks.
Branches on this 8-10 foot tall shrub are upright in habit. Growing culture is the same as hollies - preferring a well-drained, richly composted and moist soil site.

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