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23 May 2014

Consider a Cotoneaster

If you are looking for a versatile range of plants for your garden, then you should consider cotoneasters. I have three different varieties in my breezy garden near the coast and they are all thriving.

Cotoneasters can be found in deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen forms, and range from low-growing, ground cover plants to small trees, though most varieties form upright, dense shrubs. They spring into life in May and early June with a profusion of white or pale-pink, flat-petalled blooms, very popular with bees. They later give a long-lasting display of berries, making them among the most useful fruiting shrubs in autumn, attractive both to humans and birds.

Some varieties, such as C.lacteus and C. franchetti make useful hedging plants, while others can be trained flat against a wall. C. horizontalis, although mainly used for ground cover, will also grow upwards against a wall.

Cotoneasters are undemanding plants, not particular about their position or soil type, provided it isn't marshy or waterlogged. They are fully hardy and don't require much pruning, though they can be cut back hard if they outgrow their site.

They are not prone to insect attack, and although vulnerable to fireblight, this is not a problem in most gardens.

Some varieties you might think about are

C. bullatus - a large deciduous shrub with deeply veined ovate leaves turning red and orange in autumn. Small, pale pink flowers in early summer, followed by relatively large, bright red berries which colour early.

C. horizontalis - a spreading dwarf deciduous shrub to 2m in width, with distinctive, flat, regularly branched sprays of foliage with small glossy leaves that turn orange and red in autumn. Pink-tinged flowers and red berries.

C. frigidus 'Cornubia' - has an upright habit when young, then arching, with long, narrow, veined and mid-green leaves. Although it loses it's leaves in winter, the abundant and showy flowers and berries make it a plant suitable for a prominent position in a large garden.

C. watereri 'John Waterer' - a large rounded evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub with narrow-elliptic leaves to 8cm in length. It has white flowers in large clusters and masses of scarlet berries.

C. sternianus - evergreen, or semi-evergreen in cold districts, it is a good choice for hedging as it has an upright trunk and pendulous branches. The leaves are relatively small, elliptical and dark green, while the berries are orange-red.

C. lacteus - evergreen with veined, elliptical leaves, dark green above and white underneath, and strongly arching branches. It has abundant creamy-white flowers, and red fruits which last well into winter and contrast beautifully with the leaves.

C.dammeri - evergreen, but only grows to a height of about 20cm (8in), though it can spread for 2 metres (6ft 6in), so it is useful for groundcover in shady borders. It has small clusters of white flowers and red berries.

C. franchetti - evergreen with slender graceful arching branches and small oval lustrous green leaves with a white underside. It benefits from striking orange-red berries in the autumn.

Surprisingly the cotoneaster is a member of the rose family.

I'm sure you'll find at least one cotoneaster to suit your garden, so why not give it a try!
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