Thursday, November 5, 2009

Plants of the month pt.1

Pyracantha (Firethorn)

 Pyracantha brings a blaze of colour to the dull November days. It is evergreen with glossy oblong leaves. In the early summer it has white, frothy flowers followed in the autumn by a multitude of berries, either red, orange or yellow depending on variety. Orange Glow,which is the variety in my garden, can reach a height of 15 ft. Owing to it's vicious spines it makes an excellent boundary hedge, to deter burglars. It is equally at home trained against a wall, (although it is not a climber, so it will need support), or freestanding as a specimen bush.
 Fully frost hardy, it is easy to grow but although it appreciates a sheltered site in sun or semi shade it will tolerate a north or east facing wall. Having said this my one has been growing against the east facing wall of my shed in a positive wind tunnel for at least 10 years and seems quite happy. It appreciates a fertile, well drained soil although again my soil may be well drained but I think the chicken manure I dug in when I had potatoes next to it has long since been exhausted! When pruning, cut back outward growing shoots after flowering, so concentrating all the strength against the wall.
 Young plants should be planted mid autumn to early spring, about 2ft. apart. Propogate by semi ripe cuttings in late summer or by seed. The seeds should be overwintered indoors and plated out in a cold frame in spring.
 The main disease is Fireblight, but this is easily controlled by pruning. The varieties Mohave, Shawnee and Teton are resistant to the disease.
 The Pyracantha is immensly attractive to wildlife, the berries being a great favorite with the birds, although the red vaieties are more popular than the orange and the yellow least attractive of all. The flowers attract a large variety of insects and bees. The Holly Blue butterfly lays eggs on it and the caterpillars eat the flowers and berries. It also prvides good nesting sites for birds.
 On the negative side, the berries may cause stomach pains if eaten and the spines make pruning and weeding quite hazardous, but apart from this it is one of my favorite plants in my garden, I think it gives really good all year round value and is the first thing I see when I open my kitchen door.

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