Linda Eggins, Aucuba National Plant Collection holder

Forty years ago a young Psychology graduate married Dr Howard Eggins, a professional Mycologist and was launched into a lifelong commitment to academic horticulture. She little realised then that their planting scheme for their new garden would lead her to Japan and win her one of the Royal Horticultural Society’s most prestigious awards.

The backbone of the Eggins’ half acre garden are the broad leaved evergreens, which provide a winter feature in a scheme which is designed to interest all year round. The aucubas dotted around the mixed borders were granted National Collection status in 1995.

As their Collection expanded, her husband prevailed upon Linda to begin a programme of academic research that has established her as an expert of international repute. Following Howard’s death in 1995, Linda took on the role of Collection Holder herself and began to exhibit her plants at Malvern and Hampton Court.

Aucubas have a long history of cultivation in the UK, having been introduced in 1783 from Japan by John Graefer in the form Aucuba japonica ‘Variegata’, the spotted laurel. The glossy leaved shrub with handsome red berries is a reliable and versatile plant widely used by landscapers of public gardens and municipal plantings; however great variation exists within the species and there are forms with white or yellow fruit and a diversity of leaf shapes and colourings.

Linda was determined to further her research by examining aucubas in the wild; and also in public and private gardens in their country of origin. So in 2007 she secured an RHS Bursary to enable her to visit Japan. Her vivid accounts of this month-long trip were published in The Plantsman (Vol. 7, Part 3 Sept 2008) and the Plant Heritage Journal (“Anorak and proud of it”, Vol.16, Issue 2 Autumn 2009).

Linda’s Gold Medal was awarded for her educational display at the RHS Greener Gardening Show in 2009 which was supported by a grant from the Stanley Smith (UK) Trust.

“Preparation for the Show took several months; my objective was to raise the profile of the species, demonstrating the range and colour with cut specimens supported with written and graphic information on display boards. The surprise and appreciation of the spectators were evidence that I had achieved my objective and winning the Medal was a wonderful bonus.”

Linda is currently compiling the definitive taxonomic index of Aucuba japonica cultivars and securing the future of the Collection by duplicating it at the University of Birmingham’s Winterbourne Botanic Garden. She has just been awarded the Gurney Wilson Award, a bursary in support of Phase 1 of her taxonomy research.

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