Aucuba japonica offers a shining example of vegetable good nature, because if ever a shrub was called upon to perform miracles the Spotted Laurel could certainly be so described. In the black grime of city cemeteries, their leaves thick with soot, they are condemned to a sunless well nigh airless existence, a picture of woe and neglect.
Give the plant reasonable growing conditions with a proper mixture of male and female varieties, so that in due season the bushes are festooned with scarlet berries, and the real quality of the shrub is obvious. A. japonica variegata is the form most commonly seen struggling to survive in some city plot: It is a green-leaved form which looks extremely becoming in full berry but nana rotundifolia is my favourite with a neat habit and scarlet berries. Cuttings taken in August – September root so easily I have never tried sowing seeds, which is an alternative method of propagation.
I once tasted the fruit expecting acidity, but disappointingly found that there was no real flavour at all. Seed sown immediately it is ripe offers the best means of increasing stock. I have not found pruning necessary except when a branch is damaged by snow or reckless driving with the wheelbarrow.
Six years ago I bought some holly and rhododendron to brighten up a bed of bamboo in the autumn, and at the same time I also bought an Aronia arbutifolia. Though only reaching a height of 3 ft. in the first year, by mid-September it looked as if someone had lighted a fire in the border for the leaves coloured scarlet, orange, and yellow.
The early plantings made at Harlow Car had to take the full force of the wind across the valley, so they must be possessed of iron hard constitutions. I have never noticed the birds rejecting the fruit of any varieties except those of Berberis aggregata. The genus includes a wide range of dwarf and tall, evergreen and deciduous shrubs which I plunder unashamedly to add grace to my garden. Whenever I wish to increase this family, a search around the parent bushes usually reveals many self-sown seedlings. Berberis aggregata makes a dense, intensely thorny bush which, by the sheer beauty of its contribution to autumn colour, must surely be one of the best deciduous species. The masses of bright scarlet berries almost hide the Pirate King differ from the type only in that they are more erect in habit.
The canes fade to a straw yellow and the foliage is dark green and luxuriant. Like A. nitida, this is a splendid variety for planting as a lawn specimen.
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