Cotoneasters are not a well-known group of plants, and these excellent berrying shrubs are often unfairly labelled dull. The culprit responsible for this reputation is Cotoneaster horizontalis (wall spray), which sprawls across front gardens and car parks up and down the country, and is, admittedly, rather dull. But, beyond the ubiquitous blandness of C. horizontalis, there are many wonderful cotoneasters that deserve to be more widely grown.
Not only are they unfussy, low-maintenance stalwarts, the superior cotoneasters are a staple in the garden designer’s palette for their multi-season interest, wildlife appeal, and shape. They have superb form when trained into spreading multi-stemmed trees, and, as such, make great specimens for the small garden. They provide evergreen foliage (or semi-evergreen leaves with autumn colour), nectar-rich summer blossom that bees adore, and a blazing mass of colourful berries that often last well into winter. These fruits, which the plants are best known for, are usually bright crimson or orange red, but there are also yellow, pink, plum, and black forms. The birds that eat the berries (including fieldfares, blackbirds, and mistle thrushes) favour the more common red forms, over other colours, and they won’t take them until the fruit is ripe, which can be January or February on a late-berrying form, in a cold winter.
Today, there are 259 known species of cotoneaster. Back in 1821, just four were known to British botanists, before they slowly began to arrive in the second half of the 19th century and were soon treasured for their fiery show of berries. The name cotoneaster was haloed in a way the plant can only dream of today, and, during the golden era of plant hunting at the beginning ofRead more on houseandgarden.co.uk