Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine
Long and the short of hardy evergreen
Most people associate cotoneasters as creeping, crawling and perhaps mediumsized shrubs filled with tiny white flowers and then vivid red berries.
However, Cotoneaster coriaceus, the late cotoneaster, is anything but a creeping, crawling, medium-sized shrub – it’s a large evergreen growing to four metres in height and width. It likes a sunny or slightly shady spot and a decent soil and, once planted, needs virtually no maintenance. Leave it alone and it will grow happily, tolerating the worst of the British weather to become a fine specimen for a moderate-sized garden.
But if it’s too big for even a smallish garden, there are other cotoneasters capable of doing the job. They are incredibly hardy plants, often with the ability to grow horizontally or vertically, that can be pruned to order and which, before they go to sleep for winter, go out in a blaze of autumnal colour.
So, if you want a shrub that can be persuaded to grow where and how you want it to grow, and a shrub which attracts not only hordes of insects but also provides valuable nourishment for birds – particularly blackbirds – then you could do worse than grow a cotoneaster.
This is an adaptable family of plants, so there should be a space – large or small – where one would fit in comfortably. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some begin to flower in May; others wait until June before producing tiny white blossoms.
Some cotoneasters are happy to remain small all their lives; others will rapidly climb upwards to clothe a wall or fence, and such is the strength or their branches that they rarely if ever require tying in place. And it’s even possible to grow a cotoneaster as a small tree. If that’s not enough to persuade you to grow one, then consider that all are hardy and will tolerate even the meanest of soils. Once planted, they can be left to get on with growing, and the evergreen varieties will produce year-round interest.