Plant of the week: Co­toneaster

This gar­den stal­wart is pleas­ing to the eye and great for wildlife

Garden News (UK) - - News -

Although per­haps con­sid­ered a lit­tle bit overused, co­toneaster re­mains an in­dis­pens­able gar­den plant, par­tic­u­larly at this time of year when they pro­duce their char­ac­ter­is­tic red fruits, ei­ther stud­ding the stems or hanging in co­pi­ous clus­ters among the leaves.

Their im­pact is long last­ing, whether the species are ev­er­green or de­cid­u­ous. There are few woody plants with such a range of shape and form from the stature of small trees, es­pe­cially if the lower branches are re­moved, to low creep­ing mats or tight globes suit­able for use in gravel or rock gar­dens, such as ‘Lit­tle Gem’. Some species, such as C. sali­ci­folius, gen­tly weep like a wil­low, oth­ers mould them­selves against the sur­faces along which they grow. Some have stiff branch­ing forms that pro­vide ar­chi­tec­tural in­ter­est. Shoots of par­tic­u­lar va­ri­eties such as C. sue­ci­cus ‘Juli­ette’ are grafted on stout co­toneaster stems to pro­duce tree-like, weep­ing or top­i­ary forms.

Co­toneaster is a mem­ber of the rose fam­ily, although it‘s dif­fi­cult to ap­pre­ci­ate this with small­flow­ered species. The white or pink and white flow­ers which ap­pear in early sum­mer pro­duce co­pi­ous amounts of nec­tar and are a mag­net for pol­li­na­tors, which soon trans­fer pollen from plant to plant. They’re use­ful food plants for var­i­ous types of moth and the berries are also win­ter fare for many birds, such as black­birds, thrushes and waxwings.

Co­toneaster is an easy plant grow­ing in sun or semi-shade in any moist, well-drained soil as long as it doesn’t be­come con­stantly wet, es­pe­cially in win­ter. It can also be cut back quite se­verely in spring if it out­grows its space and can eas­ily be trained and shaped so it can meld into any gar­den style.

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