Aucuba japonica 'Crotonifolia'

Like all Aucubas, tough as old boots. It’ll grow anywhere but will look greener in shade than direct sun, where the leaves tend to get bleached. Any soil as long as it’s not waterlogged. Can grow to 10ft x 10ft after 20 years. The reference in the brief description to it being lovely from afar, is true. It might not be the greatest delight when viewed close up but it has a remarkable and distinctive habit that only becomes apparent when viewed from a distance. There are many good reasons for travelling by train but to me, the greatest of these is one’s ability to peer into thousands and thousands of back gardens. It was on one of these occasions, on the Portsmouth to Victoria line, that I saw, just south of Redhill station, a bank planted with a number of mature specimens of this plant when the epiphany came. Near enough to appreciate the shape and shade of green but far enough away to not have to see the variegated blotches that some people find so offensive. Add to this its famous robustness and longevity and – in the right place – a fantastically useful bit of foliage.

Severe frost (-4°c or below) will give the leaves a glazed, pendulous look. It can look terminal but it’s not. They recover wonderfully well as soon as the temperature rises.

N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

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