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 of
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Box, Buxus sempervirens, is a British native tree, most commonly used for hedging and topiary thanks to its small, evergreen leaves and dense growth. In April and May, it produces insignificant yellow flowers, that are nonetheless rich in nectar and popular with bees. Left untrimmed, a box plant can reach 5m tall, but most never reach this as they are clipped regularly.
Today we’re visiting with Kim Herdman in Williams Lake, British Columbia. We’ve visited her beautiful garden before (Gardening Through Intense Weather). She’s been going through a difficult time, but her garden has been a source of solace.
A genus of hardy herbaceous perennials, some of which are useful border plants, the dwarf species are good rock garden plants. Several are natives of the British Isles but those valued for gardens are from Europe, South America, and the Near East.
In many places in the United States columbines (Aquilegia ssp.) still grow wild. Highbrow hybrids dominate the marketplace, but even they seem to retain some of that wildness. While cleaning out an overgrown greenhouse once, I noticed columbines of indeterminate variety growing up through the cracks between the slate floor’s slabs. In my own garden they tend to self-seed, coming up everywhere but where I intend them to be. They are much like cats, domesticated to a point, but still inclined to go their own way.
Britain and Ireland have between 32 and 35 native tree species. Numbers differ depending on how many individual species of elms and whitebeam are included, whether hybrids are listed, and which species are counted as trees and which as shrubs.
For that ‘light bulb moment’ consider the two main species of Iris that will grow from bulbs. Bulbs are generally cheap and easy to grow. The bulbs are often packed in 10’s or 50’s so you can grow a group of Iris together or grow extra for cutting. The main sorts are Iris reticulata and Dutch Iris but there are also some other bulb species to look out for.
Bay (Laurus nobilis), also known as bay laurel or the bay tree, is an evergreen shrub with aromatic leaves, known as bay leaves. Laurus nobilis one of the oldest shrubs in cultivation, introduced to British gardens in from as early as 1650. It’s an essential foliage plant for herb gardens – bay leaves can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups and stews and even ice cream, and are the main ingredient in a ‘bouquet garni’. They can be dried for storing or used fresh.
The bird species that visit your garden will vary depending on your location, the size of your plot, what type of plants you grow and what supplementary bird food you offer. In some areas of the UK, birds such as tree sparrows and nuthatches might be relatively common in gardens, whereas in other places they are unlikely to be seen. The birds on the list below can be seen in gardens, but none is included in the top 20 species in the last two years of the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.
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