Berry Beautiful

The two cotoneaster shrubs in my garden are always interesting no matter the season.  Stunning green leaves with deep veining, creamy white flowers in spring (sometimes slightly pinkish) followed by red berries that persist long after the leaves have dropped for the winter and an arched upright branching habit.

catoneaster lacteus no leaves4

The Cotoneaster genus is huge, possibly 350 or more species (taxonomists differ) and as many as 45 named cultivars. Some species are so similar in leaf and berry appearance that I’m not quite sure if my two are really Cotoneaster lacteus or a closely related species, possibly C. rehderi or even C. rhytidodophyllus. All hail from the Yunnan, Hubei and Sichuan regions of China.

The red berry color deepens as the berries ripen in winter  —  no matter whether the day is a wintery gray or a perfect blue, in shade or sunlight — the berries are always a special treat to see against the sky.

catoneaster lacteus no leaves6Just a week or two ago, the birds have finally decided the berries are worth eating.

catoneaster lacteus birds1Even in the fading twilight, the fast dwindling supply of berries still attract a few stragglers.

catoneaster lacteus birds2In just a few days the birds took care of the ripe berries, but all summer and into the fall they left them untouched so we humans could enjoy them.


Late summer leaves and berries


Cotoneaster lacteus? (aka C. parneyi in the trade) contrasting nicely with potted bamboo

Both my Cotoneasters are at least 12 feet high and probably volunteered years ago in the two spots where they currently reside.  I occasionally discover seedlings and smaller volunteers around the garden.  Those are easily dug up and potted on without problems. This winter I’ll work on cutting out the cross branching and refining the shape to show more bare trunks, aiming to duplicate the shape of our native vine maples, which are also easily pruned into multiple trunks.

catoneaster lacteus no leaves3

Please prune me as soon as possible, my leaves are gone and you can see my branches.

So, could this plant get any better?  How about a variegated leaf too.  I’m already lusting for C. lacteus ‘Milkmaid.’

cotoneaster lacteus milkmaidPhoto C. lacteus ‘Milkmaid’ from Jeanette Fryer & Bertil Hylmo Book, Timber Press 2009

The Timber Press book has 200 Plates with close ups of leaves and berries. That’s Cotoneaster rhytidophyllus on the cover.  Looks a lot like C. lacteus doesn’t it?

cotoneaster book coverHere’s the notes on C. lacteus from the book:

Cotoneaster lacteus is common in warm temperature zones of both the northern and southern hemispheres. It is naturalized in the United States on the Californian coastal hills, where it is often found in cultivation as C.parneyi hort. Cotoneaster lacteus is also cultivated in Mexico, Chile, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand. It is a very useful wind-hardy shrub. It can also be grown as a hedge where the summer growth is pruned to reveal the fruit. A magnificent hedge originating from George Forrest’s collection (Forrest 10419) still stands in Ireland’s National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin, Dublin; planted in the late 1920s, it is now around 6 m high and 3 m thick. Cotoneaster lacteus has been collected by Jeanette Fryer (JFYU 008) and Keith Rushforth (KR 3929) in NW Yunnan in 1996. Cotoneaster lacteus in spring has striking, erect, tawny-haired new shoots, later covered with flowers which are followed by pretty red winter fruit. Received RHS Award of Merit in 1935 and Award of Garden Merit in 1984. Cultivar: ‘Milkmaid‘ (Plate14), a variegated form, very arresting with fruit which ripens earlier and is shiny red, slower growing than the species. Nonvariegated growth needs to be pruned out.

I’m officially on the lookout for the Milkmaid cultivar and now have the Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin on my list of travel destinations!

Fog and Fall Color

In my neck of the woods the last few days have brought fog, low clouds and misty mornings.

Pampas grass against a background of Douglas Fir

Giant Pampas grass (Erianthus?) against a background of Douglas Fir

Ferry fog horns and the misty mornings provided a nice backdrop for this Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry.

Amelanchier × grandiflora 'Autumn Brilliance'

Amelanchier × grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’

To my color-challenged eye, grasses look especially fetching in the misty filtered light.

Pennisetum orientale 'Karley Rose'

Pennisetum orientale ‘Karley Rose’

Fading tan colored seed heads made a nice background for the rose colored ones that persist until frost.

tan and rose

All that moisture in the air, disguised as raindrops, condensed on this aster bloom.


This Fuschia, which may be ‘Gartenmeister,’ hasn’t quite finished blooming. I’m not sure how hardy it is and I may just lose it if we have a hard winter.

Fuschia 'Gartenmeister' ?Also in the still blooming category is this Chocolate Cosmos.

Chocolate Cosmos in a Pot

Chocolate Cosmos in a Pot

Cosmos atrosanguineus up close

Cosmos atrosanguineus up close

The color of the berries on this Cotoneaster (the exact species still stumps me) seem to deepen with dropping temperatures and so far don’t seem to register as food for birds or other critters. The misty morning and the leaves turning golden on the Chestnut in the background are nice foils for the green and red show.

Cotoneaster 'Rehderi'

Possibly Cotoneaster ‘Rehderi’ or Contoneaster lacteus  (aka C. parneyi)

The berries on my Dropmore Scarlet Trumpet Honeysuckle aren’t quite as showy as the Cotoneaster’s, but when blooming, this Lonicera is irresistible to hummingbirds


Lonicera x brownii ‘Dropmore Scarlet’

The spent dahlias discarded on a compost pile were a serendipitous discovery.

dahlias on compost

Dahlias on the compost heap

Shades of Red and Green

In an earlier post I wrote about my color perception deficiency, a fairly common mild form of red-green color blindness.  Traipsing around the garden, camera in hand, it dawned on me that much of the fall color on display involved interplay between green and red.

courtyard entrance view

Sarcococca, Nandina, Choysia ternata line the entry courtyard

The above view from our front door, which opens on to the courtyard, is typical of the Pacific Northwest. The Maple and Dogwood in the courtyard entrance are just now coloring up. The  Douglas Fir in the distance provide a backdrop and privacy from the nearest road.


Ornamental Maple at courtyard entrance

Moving in for a closer look (required for me to notice the reddening leaves) yielded this tighter shot of the maple leaves.


An unknown species of a small ornamental maple cultivar

This close up of a pot of Sedums is intense, even to my questionable eye.



Well, maybe not all the fall color is red and green. Here’s Fletcher contrasting nicely with the waning Rudbeckia blooms.

fletcher rain garden

Fletcher in the rain garden admiring the view

No red color for the reliably evergreen and winter blooming Sarcacooca ruscifolia. But later this winter its tiny white flowers will perfume the air around the entrance to our small detatched “west wing.”  The Sarcocooca blooms are followed by red berries that ripen to black. The west wing, a former garage, and the rest of the courtyard is densely planted with Mexican Orange (Choysia ternata), Nandina, Lavender, Columbines, Euphorbia, a small weeping Cherry, and the Sarcacooca ruscifolia.


Sarcococca ruscifolia (Fragrant Sweet Box) and Zoe (Felis domesticus)

The Sarcocooca’s lateral, tassle-like buds (also called axillary buds) cover the plant right now and will open sometime later this winter. In colder climates bloom is expected in Spring. The glossy evergreen leaves are tough and will thrive in shade or part shade, but the plant is usually listed as hardy only to USDA Zone 7.


Sarcaccoca ruscifolia buds will open to small scented white flowers

I’ve always fancied a shapely bamboo in a pot somewhere in the landscape. Sadly, I never considered what I would do after the bamboo became pot bound.  Now I wonder how I’ll ever get the bamboo out without destroying the pot!  Lesson learned:  Never plant a bamboo in a pot where the opening’s diameter is narrower than the middle of the pot.

bamboo-red flowering currant - catoneaster

Pot-imprisoned bamboo between Ribies sanguineum (left)  and Cotoneaster rehderi (right)

On the plus side, those in the know warn that this bamboo Qiongzhuea tumidissinoda, though slow to establish, will eventually become an aggressive spreader. So for now I don’t have that problem, though I suppose it will eventually burst this pot. Anyone have suggestions how to extricate the plant and preserve the pot?

chinese walking stick

Chinese Walking Stick Bamboo youngish canes but showing the bulging culms

This bamboo, besides the pleasing delicate leaves cascading into a fountain like shape, is culturally important to the province of Szechuan, where for centuries it was made into beautiful canes.

Finally, for fall color contrast I vote for the Cotoneaster rehderi.  Despite my red-green color challenged perception issues, the deep red berries pop against a background of  green, veined leaves.

cotoneaster even closer

Cotoneaster rehderi