Plant of the Week: Fatsia polycarpa
By Matt Collins, Head Gardener
Three endearing qualities set Fatsia polycarpa aside from its near ubiquitous cousin, F. japonica. Four, in fact, if you include a slightly more robust hardiness. Unlike japonica, whose coastal origin bestowed its leaves with a waxy, leather-like texture, polycarpa’s foliage is by contrast relatively sheen-free; the mat option, in place of gloss. It is also enormously variable, the highly decorative palmate lobes by turns elongated, narrow and curvaceous.
The plant is remarkably shade-tolerant, too: it is a natural born woodlander, at home in the dim of the understory. For us this comes in handy, considering our gardens for the most part lie in the shadow of tall buildings and towering London plane trees. Growing at the foot of a large mulberry tree, our polycarpa is positioned in perhaps the most shady (and dry!) spot of all, and yet it thrives. In fact, in late spring each year I saw off a good 2-3 weighty stems, just to reduce the congestion that results from the plant’s immense vigour.