This section is from the book "The Gardener V1", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
Though botanically different from their near allies the Yews, the species vrhich constitute this genus have a general appearance suggestive of that group, and are associated with them in the coniferous sub-family Taxineae.
The few species in cultivation are natives of Japan and China, where they are found at high altitudes, forming medium-sized trees, valued for their timber, and extensively cultivated in the gardens and pleasure-grounds of both countries as decorative trees.
If less hardy, and somewhat more fastidious in regard to soils and situations than the Yews, all the species are quite handsome enough to justify their being recommended for trial wherever a well-sheltered locality and a deep rich loamy soil can be made available; and where they do succeed they are objects of great beauty, their warm green tints blending most pleasingly with the darker green of the common Yew and its varieties.
Like the Yews, they are peculiarly adapted for shady situations, where, if the soil is moderately moist, and each plant sufficiently isolated to admit of the branches being freely developed on every side, they rarely fail to form neat and attractive specimens.
This is one of the many valuable accessions to our list of hardy plants for which we are indebted to the distinguished collector whose name it bears, and by whom seeds were first sent to this country in 1848. It is found wild in several districts in Japan and the north of China, chiefly in high but sheltered valleys, and attaining heights of from 40 to 60 feet.
Though of slow growth, and thriving here only in well-sheltered localities, it is in favourable circumstances an interesting and distinct-looking shrub, of a broadly conical shape, sparingly furnished with long slender branches, divided into numerous branchlets slightly drooping at the points: the leaves are from 2 to 3 inches long, of a linear-lanceolate form, the upper surface bright glossy green, and the under dimly glaucous. There is a very desirable variety of this species obtained from seed, and recently introduced into cultivation, which has been named F. robusta, only differing, however, in its denser and more vigorous habit of growth.
Cephalotaxus drupacea (the Plum-fruited Cephalotaxus), another of Mr Fortune's fine introductions, and found wild in similar localities in Japan and the north of China as the preceding, is in its native habitats a small bushy tree, rarely exceeding 30 feet in height.
This sort was at first believed to be the female form of "Fortuneii," and was distributed under the name "F. fcemina;" but as both sorts have since been found to be fruit-bearers, the propriety of ranking it as a distinct species is sufficiently obvious.
As yet it has only been seen here as a moderate-sized shrub, with a close conical habit of growth, the branches much divided into small branchlets, profusely clothed with yew-like leaves from 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, of a yellowish-green colour on the upper surface, and faintly silvery on the under.
Being much hardier, and more accommodating in regard to soils and situations than Fortuneii, it is more frequently met with in collections; and though lacking the distinct tropical aspect peculiar to that species, it is on the whole a more useful outdoor ornamental shrub, and makes a handsome lawn specimen in ordinary soils, if moderately sheltered.
This fine species, still better known under its original name Taxus Harringtonia (the Earl of Harrington's Yew), was first introduced into British gardens in 1837 from Japan, where in high sheltered valleys it forms a broad bushy shrub, frequently attaining heights of from 20 to 25 feet. It is the Inukaja, or "Wild Yew," of the Japanese; and is by them extensively employed as a hedge-plant, as well as for the decoration of their gardens and pleasure-grounds.
In this country it forms a dense spreading bush, very abundantly branched, the branchlets short and slightly pendent: the leaves are from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2- inches long, closely set on the shoots in two rows; of a glossy light-green tint on the upper surface, and having a silvery glaucous band underneath on each side of the midrib.
Like the other species of Cephalotaxus, a mild or well-sheltered locality is indispensable to its successful cultivation; and in such, provided the soil is rich, and the subsoil cool, without being damp, it is a most beautiful and interesting plant, and well worthy of a prominent place in any collection of the choicer Conifers.