Pyracantha & Cotoneaster: Bright and beautiful
Remember, remember the 5th of November? It’s bonfire and fireworks all round and explosions of colour lighting up the skies. For those of us who like our colour explosions without the bang – this month’s plant choices are for you. Pyracantha and Cotoneaster are not only bright and beautiful; they are useful too, providing an excellent source of food and shelter for the wildlife in your garden and a significant source of nectar when the bees have slim pickings in the June Gap. The magnificent fiery orange and ruby red berries are set on a backdrop of dark, evergreen, glossy foliage that can brighten up the gloomiest November day or sparkle in the winter sunshine!
The plants at first glance look similar and in fact are distantly related. Pyracantha is commonly known as Firethorn, and if you’ve ever been pricked by one of its thorns you’d know why! They are viciously prickly, but for some, it adds to the plant’s versatility. Due to its thorny nature it is recommended as an intruder deterrent for those unwanted animal (or human!) visitors to your garden. Plant them close together and within a couple of years they will be almost completely impenetrable.
Cotoneaster is the gentler sister of Pyracantha – it is thornless and therefore sometimes chosen over Pyracantha by those who want the beauty without the bite!
Both plants can be grown as hedges, groundcover or against walls and fences; they look equally good as freestanding shrubs. They are easy to grow in sun or partial shade and in any reasonable soil.
They have the added benefit of being covered by beautiful white flowers in the month of May, the only slight downside is that some varieties have what is sometimes described as a pungent smell, make sure you make the most of those knowledgeable experts at your local garden centre and get advice on the right plant for you and your garden.
Our plant choices:
Pyracantha ‘Navajo’ and Pyracantha ‘Orange Charmer’ are excellent examples. ‘Orange Charmer’ is an evergreen, bushy, arching shrub with white flowers from April and large spherical orange fruits in Autumn. ‘Navajo’ sports vibrant orange red berries nestled against shiny green leaves and can be resistant to fireblight.
Seasonal highlights November
This is the time for hearth and home. Draw the curtains and cosy-in for the evening. Re-discover the pleasures of reading this year as the nights draw in. Use the time to study your gardening books and draw up your plans for the spring. Of course, armchair time is even more enjoyable when you’ve had an active day, so be sure to make the most of fine days for sorting out around the garden.
The gardening websites and magazines are full of lists of jobs to do to get things ready for winter, but one of the most important is to leave some suitable habitat for our precious garden wildlife. Try not to disturb piles of grass or hedge clippings as these may be harbouring grass snakes or even rare slow worms. Leaves and logs are the favourite haunts of over-wintering hedgehogs and long grass under hedges.