Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine

Ablaze midwinter


The firethorn, or pyracantha, can bring a welcome burst of colour in December, writes David Overend.

When it comes to autumnal berries, there are few to challenge pyracantha, the firethorn, for its intensity of colour – striking orange being the prevalent hue. And not only is the plant bright and beautiful at an often-miserable time of year, but it’s useful as an excellent source of food and shelter for a variety of wildlife – and it can also make a wonderfull­y unusual hedge.

The magnificen­t fiery orange and ruby red berries are set against a backdrop of dark, evergreen, glossy foliage that can brighten up the gloomiest December day or sparkle in the winter sunshine.

There are other plants renowned for their orange fruits, particular­ly some forms of mountain ash, Arum italican (also known as cuckoo pint) and the very sticky and bitter-fruited sea buckthorn, but firethorn is a firm favourite because of its adaptabili­ty, its year-after-year consistenc­y – and its vicious spines.

Because of its thorny nature, it is recommende­d as a living barrier for those unwanted animal (or human) visitors to your garden. Plant a few firethorns close together and within a couple of years they will be almost impenetrab­le.

But pyracantha isn’t just a plant for autumn and winter; those evergreen leaves provide year-round interest and there is an added bonus of small white flowers in summer.

It is rarely grown as a high hedge but normally as groundcove­r or climbing against walls and fences, although it looks equally good as a free-standing shrub.

Firethorns are easy to grow in sun or partial shade and in any reasonable soil.

Pyracantha “Navajo” and Pyracantha “Orange Charmer” are excellent choices. The latter is an evergreen, bushy, arching shrub with white flowers in spring and large spherical orange fruits in autumn.

“Navajo” sports vibrant orange-red berries nestled against shiny green leaves and can be resistant to fireblight, a particular­ly unpleasant disease.

And if orange isn’t quite right for your garden colour scheme, there’s an equally striking red variety; Pyracantha “Red Column” will form a dense, prickly shrub, particular­ly in its upright form.

During the summer, plants produce sprays of bright white flowers, followed by eye-catching displays of sparkling red berries, providing food to the birds through the colder months.

Pyracantha “Soleil d’Or” produces white blooms throughout the summer, followed by bright yellow berries.

 ?? ?? WINTER WARMER: The vivid orange berries of pyracantha – planted to form a hedge.
WINTER WARMER: The vivid orange berries of pyracantha – planted to form a hedge.

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