Cotoneaster is the buzz word for a noisy summer

Seven months to go to July, the noisiest month of the year, when all the little buzzers of the insect world feed themselves silly on the free banquet offered by the cotoneaster.

It's not free, of course, because the plant has an ulterior motive – to get the insects to pollinate its flowers.

Clever plants, those cotoneasters. But they should come with a health warning – having one such plant under a window can drive you mad. When the blooms appear, the insect noise increases and increases until, eventually, it becomes a continuous cacophony of sound.

The result of this frantic feeding frenzy is revealed later in the year when the bush starts to sprout a measle-like rash of small, red berries which are irresistible to birds. Come late autumn, they descend on cotoneasters and stuff themselves to build up their strength for the coming winter.

In early spring, many bushes look like skeletons; tiny, bare twigs with only one or two berries remaining where the birds haven't been able to reach them.

So, why grow a cotoneaster when it is always submerged beneath a hive of insects of a flock of birds? Well, it is a wonderful plant for attracting wildlife, and birds and insects waiting their turn to feed will turn their attention to other things in the garden, so many more plants will benefit. And cotoneasters are wonderfully adaptable and accommodating plants. They will grow virtually anywhere are in most soils. They also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some begin to flower in May; others wait until late June before producing their tiny, white blooms.

Some are content to stay small and compact while others can grow to become small specimen trees or produce long, weeping branches.

Grow them to cover an unsightly wall or fence; let them spread, fan-wise to cover the ground; or simply give them their head and wait for the wildlife to discover the feast.

YP MAG 8/1/11

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