Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

'Rozannie' aucuba

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Pure green, glossy, and surprisingly hardy:  'Rozannie' is the aucuba for me.  This essential shade-tolerant evergreen is so often planted in its variegated cultivars that the solid-green varieties are now the hot tickets. 

 

A no-brainer in Zone 7 and warmer, Aucuba needs careful siting in my New England garden if it's not to become thoroughly damaged each Winter.  Right by the foundation?  Check.  In a corner where it's at least somewhat wind-sheltered?  Check.  Next to huge stone slabs, which are heat sinks year round—Aucuba loves to bake—and also provide a root run that's frost-free underneath?  Check. 

 

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'Rozannie' is naturally dense and low, so it will never outgrow its welcome.  Perfect!

 

 

Here's how to grow this dignified and tolerant shrub:

Latin Name

Aucuba japonica 'Rozannie'

Common Name

Rozannie aucuba

Family

Garryaceae, the Garrya family.  Garrya is a genus of highly desirable broadleaf evergreen bushes and trees native to coastal western North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

What kind of plant is it?

Broadleaf evergreen bush. 

Hardiness

Zones 6 -10.

Habit

Broad and full to the ground.  'Rozannie' is a peerless foundation shrub.

 

Rate of Growth

Slow.

Size in ten years

Three to four feet tall and wide.

Texture

Solid and, thanks to the green stems as well as leaves, a bit artificial.  Aucuba looks like it was assembled from plastic parts.

Grown for

its toughness and tolerance:  Aucuba japonica is renowned for its adaptability to meager circumstances—low light and poor soil loaded with tree roots—as well as its tolerance of high heat and humidity.

 

its foliage:  Broad leathery leaves stay green all Winter, and don't droop or curl like those of large-leaved rhododendrons.

 

its red berries, which are unusually large.  They're beautifully displayed against the green foliage, and are remarkably durable, too.  It's not unusual for them to last right through Winter and into Spring.

 

its foliage's unpalatability to deer, and its berries' unpalatability to birds. 

Flowering season

Aucuba flowers in Spring, with an inflorescence of burgundy flowers so minute that they become interesting only under low magnification.

Color combinations

'Rozannie' brings a simple medium-green to the garden, so it goes with anything.  As usual for cold-weather color coordination of anything less bulky than, say, colorfully-needled conifers, all colors are welcome and in any combination.  The shrub's red berries, then, are at home amid any neighboring hues.

Partner plants

'Rozannie' has such fullness, shininess, and density that contrasts in texture and color are easy.  And it's so shade tolerant that it can associate closely with neighboring shrubs without becoming patchy or leggy.  If it's growing in soil that's generous in nutrients and moisture retention, ferns would be the ultimate in textural contrast.  The huge foliage of hostas can make any Aucuba seem almost delicate; cultivars that nod to yellow instead of blue partner better with the shrub's foliage, whose green contains a strong dose of yellow.

 

Shade-tolerant variegated plants, including hostas and ferns, are always welcome around all-green aucubas, and there are so many choices that it's almost a relief not to plant the more usual variegated aucubas, which are tricky to combine with still more variegates.  Liriope, zinziber, five-leaf aralia, carex, hakonechloa, ajuga, euonymus, polemonium, and holly all provide variegated options.

 

Another tactic entirely is to grow 'Rozannie' with partner plants that are large enough in themselves provide the shade it enjoys.  Could there be a better underplanting for a choice Japanese maple?  Or a fronter for big ornamental grasses or bamboos?  Their inevitable arching overhang will provide just the dappling sun protection the aucuba enjoys most.  

 

Shrubs that enjoy and even require shade can be shaded-upon by scrambling partners that they support.  'Rozannie' could help elevate a clematis that's not overly vigorous, bringing its flowers closer to view as it enjoys the shade that the clematis creates.  A fern-leaf variety, say Clematis tibetana var. vernayi, whose foliage is so finely-cut it looks as if Edward Scissorhands cut it out of sheetmetal.

Where to use it in your garden

Aucuba is truly essential for urban gardens, but is also a joy in shady gardens anywhere it's hardy.  So many Aucuba cultivars are variegated—see "Variants" below—and sometimes fearlessly so, that 'Rozannie' is as welcome for its quiet green purity as its compact habit.

Culture

Part to full shade, especially if the soil tends to be dry or the sun in that location is particularly fierce.  Below Zone 7, full shade in Winter helps prevent leaf scorch.  Almost any soil as long as it's well-drained.

How to handle it: The Basics

Aucuba japonica is easy to establish, and grows enthusiastically if given even half a chance.  The thick but oddly sparse roots don't grasp soil well, and the root balls of even container-grown plants can fragment in planting.  The shrub recovers just fine if you water well at planting, and stake if necessary the first year. 

How to handle it: Another option—or two?

'Rozannie' is naturally low and dense, so pruning to reduce size or to increase density is rarely needed.  Prune off any Winter-killed growth in early Spring.  It's worth it to remove individual Winter-killed leaves instead of entire branches when growing Aucuba at the cold end of its hardiness range, where you want to give the bush all possible encouragement to grow.

Other Aucuba cultivars can become tall and leggy in milder climates or when growing in exceptionally deep shade.  Bushes respond well to serious pruning, so don't hesitate to lop one or two of the major branches down to the ground each Spring; new shoots will sprout from the base.  New shoots on extant branches emerge in whorls just behind the flowers, and you can encourage additional branching by pinching off the young foliage at the branches' tips.  Prune only in Spring in Zones 6 and 7; in warmer climates you can prune at almost any time.  

Quirks or special cases

None.

Downsides

If only Aucuba were a zone hardier, I could also plant other cultivars of it elsewhere than nestled right against the house.

Variants

As is typical for plants native to Japan and China, where horticulture has been a high art for centuries, many cultivars have been identified.  So many are variegated that the few all-green variants are, if anything, even more highly prized.  Besides 'Rozannie', 'Serratifolia' has narrow leaves.  They're even darker green, and so the berry crop is highlighted even better.  It's full-size.  'Emily Rose' has all-green leaves that are a bit rounder than those of 'Rozannie', but is still notably full and bushy; it's medium-sized, to six feet.  'Wisley Nana' is a bit smaller still than 'Rozannie'.  A. japonica var. borealis, from northern Japan, is a bit hardier.

 

Several of the variegates are omnipresent where Aucuba is reliably hardy.  Even as cheering and bright as the yellow-spotted foliage of 'Mr. Goldstrike' is on dark Winter days, this male (and therefore non-berrying) cultivar would be more pleasing still if it weren't encountered on every block.  'Picturata' has large central blotches of yellow on green leaves that are also dotted in yellow; even though the entire plant looks plastic, I still find it welcome in dark city gardens.  I await a variegate in white and grey instead of cream and yellow.   

 

Availability

On-line and, where it's solidly hardy, at retailers.

Propagation

Aucuba japonica 'Rozannie' is propagated by cuttings.

Native habitat

Aucuba japonica is native to Japan and China.

 

 
 
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