Newest Review: ... had placed a specimen of this within her plans for our front garden, and it needs to be kept to a dwarf size for our purpose. Our house ... more
Member Name: shroud
Date: 30/10/09, updated on 30/10/09 (112 review reads)
Advantages: evergreen, easy to grow shade loving plant, hardy
Disadvantages: toxic foilage and berries, needs pruning to keep within desired size
This is a fairly common garden plant found in British gardens. It is usually known by its English name, spotted laurel, due to the most popular variety being the sort that has variegated leaves (green with yellow markings). This is actually a complete misnomer, as it is not related to the laurel at all, but a completely unrelated genus of plants that were imported a few centuries ago from Asia. The particular variety known here as spotted laurel, is actually a species imported from Japan, Aucuba japonica., and if left unpruned can reach a height of about 13 feet, depending on the particular cultivar. It takes to being topped off quite well though, so it is possible to also plant it in the smaller garden as long as the correct growing conditions are met.
This is quite lucky for us, as my daughter had placed a specimen of this within her plans for our front garden, and it needs to be kept to a dwarf size for our purpose. Our house was built in 1950 and we purchased it from the original tenant. He diliked gardening, and his sole concession to it was trimming the side hedge , making certain it was straight using a ruler, and meticulously mowing his "grass". I use that term loosely as it was half moss, a quarter clover, and the rest was mixture of grass, toadstools, and dandelions. The ground itself had remained untouched from the day the grass seeds were first planted in 1950, so when we decided to lay our drive and put in a new garden, it meant tilling and ploughing the ground. It was worth it though, as we got our driveway, and our daughter gets to have her take on a Japanese garden! Having nothing left to get in the way, we have been free to do the most important bit for the plants: choosing the correct location. These really like a bit of corner space,semi shady with gentle sun (leaves WILL sunburn in direct sun!). The corner my daughter had selected meets this criteria, and this shrub, kept topped, provides a nice bit of foilage to serve as part of a backdrop to her small water feature. Having said that, it will tolerate dry soils and even grow in deep shade, and city dwellers can rejoice, as it doesn't even mind air pollution.
Being evergreen, it brightens the garden space even in winter. Red berries are often also produced after flowering (small groups of white blossoms), though for this you really need a female shrub as this plant actually has two sexes. It is fairly easy if purchasing from a nursery to determine which you have by reading the tag. If in doubt, do ask the nursery staff. You may also see these plants marked as Aosa Nishiki; this is the Japanese name for this plant. Aosa being their word for the plant itself and nishiki meaning "striped or variegated". This designation is not uncommon in nurseries which specialise in plants for "oriental" gardens as one centre put it.
To prune this plant, always use secateurs and keep young children and pets who like to snack on plants away from the clippings and any berries as these are toxic if ingested. They do not require an acid soil, so if like us you using it part of a grouping that contains acid loving plants, make certain that they are outide the root zone of the acid loving plants. They also do not mind being planted very close together, so also make an interesting hedge that makes a nice change from the bog standard privet for shady areas. So whether chosen as a specimen plant or to use as a hedge, this is an easy to care for choice of plant.
Summary: Nice shrub that tolerates less than ideal conditions
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