In praise of glorious autumn tints and seasonal berries

Cotoneaster horizontalis (S)
Cotoneaster horizontalis (S)

Plants for seasonal interest, getting the best from your greenhouse and time to store garden furniture this week by Martin Fish - Show director, Harrogate Flower Shows.

At this time of the year there are many interesting shrubs for use in the garden that provide a colourful display of autumn foliage and attractive berries. One shrub that provides both is Cotoneaster horizontalis which looks stunning at this time of the year. As shrubs go, cotoneaster is often classed as a common shrub that is mostly seen planted on roundabouts or in supermarket car parks and I know of people that wouldn’t give it garden room! It is however, in my opinion a versatile shrub that is very useful to plant in the garden where it will provide interest all through the year. At the moment the small leaves are bright red and provide a real splash of colour. The berries are also red and these are clustered along the branches and when the foliage finally drops off in a week or two, the mass of berries will be totally visible. Apart from their attraction, the berries also form valuable food for many bird over the winter months and in cold weather blackbirds will flock to the plants in search of a feed. Unlike many other types of cotoneaster, horizontalis is deciduous. It is often called the herringbone cotoneaster because the the pattern of branches that fan out from a central main branch. It can be grown as a low growing ground cover shrub, but it also makes a very good wall shrub and when planted against a wall for support it will grow to around 1.8m (6ft) tall. In spring the fan-shaped branches develop fresh new green glossy foliage and in late spring and early summer small white flowers open, which are very good at attracting pollinating insects into the garden. It will grow happily in most soil types including clay and if the plant grows slightly larger than you want it to, it responds well to pruning. All in all an easy to grow shrub that will perform well in the garden.

Readers’ Questions

James from Harrogate is thinking about getting a greenhouse in his garden and he would like to know which is the best way to orientate it and also how much maintenance is involved in maintaining the greenhouse.

With a small domestic greenhouse it doesn’t matter too much whether the structure runs north to south or east to west. What is important is that you position it in a sunny spot where it will get maximum sunlight through the day. Avoid overhanging trees and make sure the structure is well secured to prevent movement in windy weather. Maintenance is minimal, especially on aluminium greenhouses and even wooden ones do not require too much work. At this time of the year it is essential to make sure the glass is washed down to allow maximum light through to over-wintering plants.

Jobs for the week

Check water features to make sure they are not clogged up with autumn leaves and consider draining them before winter to prevent the pump from freezing in frosty weather.

There is still time to plant tulips in borders or containers for a colourful display next spring.

Bring garden furniture under cover for the winter where it can be stored until spring.