Winter garden guide

Aucuba japonica Golden King

Aucuba japonica Golden King - Credit: Keith Clouting

Plant specialist Keith Clouting of Taverham Nursery Centre brings you his guide to getting the best out of your garden

Plants which are reliable and easy to grow in a variety of situations (even deep shade) are like jewels. One such group of plants are Aucubas; with their large, glossy, evergreen leaves ranging from dark green to the almost golden, they are particularly valuable this time of year.

One of the showiest is the male variety Aucuba japonica Golden King. Its leaves splashed liberally with golden-yellow variegation, it will brighten up even the dullest part of the garden. A female variety with similar variegation is A.j. Crotonifolia which, if pollinated, produces large, glossy red fruits in autumn. A good female green leaved form is A.j. Rozannie which berries reliably, its red fruits showing up well against the dark green leaves.

Aucubas are tough plants, tolerant of drought and will grow in dry shade where many plants struggle. Pruning can be carried out in spring to shape or restrict the size of the plant. Among good companion plants for them are Skimmias - compact, evergreen shrubs which carry their ornamental buds throughout the winter opening into fabulously scented flowers in early spring. The male plants tend to have the showiest flowers. One of the best being Skimmia x Confusa Kew Green, which has large clusters of green buds in autumn and winter, opening into fragrant greenish-yellow flowers in spring. Another popular variety is S.j. Rubella, which has red-purple buds followed by creamy-white flowers. Skimmias grow well in shade or partially shaded borders, they also make an excellent addition to winter containers.

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