When we think of Autumn in the garden we think foliage, we think evergreen and we think berries. This plant has all of this and much, much more.
Often overlooked the Cotoneaster is somewhat of a garden stalwart. It provides everything you want in an evergreen shrub. It has form, provides structure, year round interest and it is also very versatile. The species pictured here in my garden, which I believe is Cotoneaster salicifolius, is particularly great.
An example of it's versatility is apparent in my garden where it has been grown as a hedge and layered above a brick wall. I inherited the hedge in a rather sorry state. It was incredibly overgrown and had not received any love or attention for many years. Branches from the shrub, dangling over the wall, had started to consume much of the precious space left within my small garden and I couldn't afford to lose any space at all. After the discovery that there was a lovely * red brick wall under all that foliage I set about pruning the hedge back to a more manageable state. It was only when I finished pruning that I discovered I had managed to free up a further two foot of garden.
The ability of the Cotoneaster to be used as a hedge, stand alone shrub, or ground-cover is not, however, why I value this plant so much. I love the fact that it has something for all seasons. It is evergreen, providing colour all year round, it has oodles of white flowers throughout Summer which provides plenty of food for insects and it has masses of beautiful berries in the Autumn/Winter which provide an abundance of food for birds, insects and small mammals. It also acts as a place for animals to over-winter. At present I have noticed many Ladybirds, British species not Harleqin's, beginning to set up camp here. Other insects, too many to mention here, also use this shrub as a retreat.
I always recommend this plant, not only because of the fantastic qualities discussed earlier, but because the plant itself is so tolerant. It is fantastically drought tolerant, able to grow in sandy soils and it will also thrive in full sun. On the other hand it can also be grown in heavy clay soil, exposed coastal situations or moderate shade.
I don't however appreciate the company it sometimes keeps. As we can see in the picture above it associates itself with the garish and brash Fuchsia, the plant equivalent of Vicky Pollard's shell suit. The only problem I have is that however hard I prune it it keeps coming back and of course it does belongs to next door.
So, along the same lines of the Cadbury's Cream Egg slogan, how do you grow yours? Have you grown Cotoneaster? Do you have an inherent distaste for the plant? I would love to read your comments.
* I am aware that the pointing on this wall is horrendous however I did not do it and I don't have the time or inclination to change it. I like informality and will say that this is intentional or arts and crafts style!