Aucuba japonica in New Hampshire

In warmer states, folks might stifle a ‘ho-hum’ yawn if they see the Aucuba japonica leaf pictured here… but for me, seeing the plant in New Hampshire is a thrilling sight. First of all, it thrives in hardiness zone 7 or warmer. We are officially zone 5b. Secondly, it’s a sentimental reminder from my 7b home and no matter how common, it’s a favorite for me. Thirdly, there’s nothing more striking than this variegated ‘Aucuba Gold Dust’ variety in a floral arrangement.

In the proper zone, it is an evergreen shrub but a friend in New Hampshire who grows it in zone 6 says it dies to the ground each winter and rises like a phoenix each spring. She shared cuttings with me a year ago and once they were well-rooted, they were planted in our landscape last spring, now protected beneath sandwich boards for the winter. My fingers are crossed for these small shrubs’ survival.  Stay tuned…

In zone 7b, the plant is fairly slow-growing but tough and adaptable, able to thrive in a wide range of, but preferably moist, soils.  It does well in deep shade where this variegated variety flecked with gold shines like a beacon from the shadows.

Aucuba

Propagation by cuttings is almost foolproof. This winter, my friend again shared leftover cuttings from a floral design workshop I organize for our garden club. Success in rooting was almost guaranteed with short roots sprouting on the old wood along the stem nodes.

Aucuba Roots

Not only do I have success with stems, it’s easy to propagate plants from just the leaves. Once my little plants have developed enough roots, into a soil mix in clay pots they will go… and when they are ready, I’m sure there’ll be a home waiting for all of them. How can folks resist?

Aucuba Leaves

Scientific name: Aucuba japonica
Variety: Gold Dust,  v. variegata
Common names: Aucuba, Japanese Acuba, Japanese Laurel
Family: Garryaceae, cousins to the better known dogwood family (Cornaceae)
Plant type: shrub. Female plants will have red berries in the fall if a male is nearby.

It’s a Berry nice fall…

The last few mornings in Tidewater have been crisp and there’s no denying that fall has arrived. Most gardeners agree that one of the best parts of a fall garden are the colorful berries on shrubs and trees. Birds are migrating like crazy on this property and enjoying the berries as much as I am. They are filling their tummies with tons of berries and I am filling my mind with the beauty of a wide array of colors, shapes and sizes. Many plants for this landscape were selected just for the berries they produce. Here are a few in the garden today:

Poet's Laurel (Danae racemosa)

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica)

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica 'Alba')

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Other fall berries that I admire in my gardens are clusters of tiny blue berries on our Southern Wax Myrtle (Myrica cerifera), red coral honeysuckle (Lonicera semperviens) berries, bumpy red berries of the Kousa Dogwood (Cornus kousa chinensis), several varieties of cotoneaster with masses of berries that are still green, numerous viburnums, foster’s holly that cedar waxwings adore, red plump berries of the female Aucuba japonica, showstopper berries on several winterberries (Ilex verticillata), and one of the loveliest but a weed is the pokeberry, this one already picked clean of almost all berries by hungry birds.

Pokeberry (Phytolacca americana)

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester