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Fantastic Design Plant: Rock Cotoneaster

While fall and winter holidays might have the seasonal decorating market, I love to think that in the house — and backyard — ornamental festivities can be appreciated yearlong. Foliage, flowers and berries denote the changing of the seasons, and stone cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis) provides up all three. Its elegant sprays of small leaves, rich blossoms and vibrant red berries shine in the backyard and home out of spring’s development through winter’s close.

Botanical name: Cotoneaster horizontalis
Common names: Rock cotoneaster, rockspray cotoneaster
USDA zones: 5 to 2; tolerant to -20 degrees Fahrenheit (find your zone)
Water requirement: Moderate to low
moderate requirement: Full sun to partial shade
Mature size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 5 to 2 feet wide
Benefits and tolerances: Attracts birds, birds and butterflies; aids in erosion management; tolerant of wind, contamination, rabbits and deer
Seasonal curiosity: Abundant blossoms in spring and summer; showy red berries in fall through winter; colorful fall foliage
When to plant: Plant cuttings in summer.

Distinguishing attributes. Cotoneasters are noted for their petite foliage and showy red berries, but stone cotoneaster is most distinguished for its distinctive form and distinct branching pattern. Low growth, stone cotoneaster jobs vertically, forming a dense yet arching mat of leaves.

Photo by Père Igor

Rock cotoneaster’s branchlets form a distinct herringbone pattern. Though the plant is only briefly deciduous over winter, it is a nice time to appreciate the skeletal attractiveness.

Dark green foliage covers the plant during the year. Spring and summer are a profuse flowering period, once the plant attracts bees and butterflies. The blossoms transition into showy red berries in fall through winter. (Beware: Birds love these berries, therefore they might not make it through winter) The foliage turns a vibrant crimson and purple (shown) prior to falling.

Monrovia

How to use it. The dense, low branching structure of rock contoneaster functions nicely as a ground cover. It is recommended that you space plantings 5 feet apart. Group rock cotoneaster on a bank or hillside for appealing erosion management and to dissuade garden traffic from straying.

Rock cotoneaster includes a naturally beautiful form if it is allowed to disperse, so don’t plant it too close to garden or paths borders. Instead, allow the plant to spread elegantly in rock gardens or above rock walls.

The arching branchlets provide distinct yearlong beauty in the backyard. Consider bringing flowering branches inside during summer and spring; showy red berries in fall provide natural alternatives to conventional holiday decorations within the house and outside also.

Planting notes. Rock cotoneaster is widely used for a lot of reasons, but its adaptability and easy-grow nature make it to stick around. Faring best in well-drained, dry dirt, it’s a moderate grower, prefering full sunlight and medium to light water. It is heat resistant, thriving in dry summers and wet winters.

Rock cotoneaster self-sows, therefore eliminate seedlings you don’t wish to grow bigger. It’s possible to trim back dead or disfigured branches, but crops looks best if allowed to grow to their full form.

It is a powerful weed suppresser when utilized as a ground cover. During the time that it takes for the plants to fill out, use mulch to control weeds.

Photo by Père Igor

More: 6 Branches and Berries to Spruce Up Holiday Decor

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Southwest Gardener's October Checklist

With the latest autumnal equinox, the mild has become sexier here in the desert. This changes how we see our garden distances, and warmer temperatures are changing how we can utilize them.

The arid Southwest is divided into three zones:
The Minimal zone: The hottest areas without winter; comprises Phoenix; Palm Springs, California; Laughlin, Nevada; and Yuma, Arizona (USDA zones 9 to 10)The middle zone: Hot with Minimal winter; comprises Tucson, Arizona; warm areas of Las Vegas; China Lake, California; and Presidio, Texas (USDA zones 8 to 9b) The high zone: Moderately hot with short, certain winters; includes El Paso, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Payson, Arizona; and Saint George, Utah (USDA zones 6b to 8)

Exteriors By Chad Robert

Fall planting. Many plants will love being transplanted in October, since mild temperatures and still-warm soils permit optimal plant growth.

At the middle and high winds, wait till spring to plant heat-loving to tender perennials, like Lantana and some broad-leaved citrus trees and shrubs (including evergreen oak species and India hawthorn). It’s unlikely they will set before colder weather, an planting them at the fall may lead to severe damage to foliage and newer branches.

People in the minimal zone may still plant the majority of the species that the higher zones cannot, since adequate root growth is probably before colder weather strikes.

Turfgrass. Whatever your zone, it’s too late in the year to plant or seed any warm-season yards or mulch, such as Zoysia or even Bermudagrass. The exclusion is cool-season turf for the oasis regions of middle and high winds, which is sodded with proper soil preparation and normal irrigation.

Hortus Oasis

Planting by Southwest Region

Try these kinds for October plantings.

Low zone: Any native and adapted plants, including low desert wildflowers, herbs and cool-season vegetables. This also has Ironwood (Olneya tesota),Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi) and parsley.

Medium zone: Cold-hardy palms, and any native and adapted plants, including wildflowers, herbs and lots of cool-season vegetables. Including fan palm (Washingtonia species) and Mexican grass tree (Dasylirion quadrangulatum).

High zone: Cold-hardy native agaves, yuccas and succulents; most woody native and adapted plants; herbs with woody growth; and rugged wildflowers from the high desert. In desert grassland and foothills regions, plants are likely to germinate and develop roots with moisture from next spring. Including soaptree (Yucca elata), turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia) and Penstemon species.

Revealed: Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Do a simple cleanup. Love autumn’s pleasures and also do something easy that makes a huge gap: Leave the challenging job for another month. October is a good time to simply touch up your outdoor spaces to maintain them livable, allowing additional time to enjoy them.

Remove smaller deadwood from trees and shrubs, since removal of live growth is more likely to stimulate new growth once the first colder weather occurs. Dead twigs and timber bits detract from a plant’s form — and it’s easy to tell those from the live timber at the moment. When you are finished, rake up surplus debris, leaves and other clutter from planting areas and the yard. An ordered space is much more relaxing, and a garden could be the prime spot for personal revival.

Donna Lynn – Landscape Designer

Handle water. Continue to track and reset the timers on any controllers you might have, especially in the low and middle zones. As temperatures fall, decrease the water necessary.

If you are planning a landscape to get a barren area or for a place outside plant roots, then create water harvesting opportunities to benefit plantings and some visual interest by installing delicate basins, swales and berms from constructions, where lush plantings are needed.

Contemplate capturing and storing stormwater for reuse as landscape irrigation during the inevitable dry periods to come. While the expenses of bigger systems often exceed those of potable gallon for gallon, it may be worth it to research for future requirements and changes in water availability. This is especially true in upland areas much from municipal water sources.

And as it’s late in the growing season, don’t overwater — it’ll encourage too much late-season growth.

Protect plants from nibbling rabbits. Rabbits in desert regions like to discover moist and cool things to eat. In drier seasons, they’re fond of devouring plants that they often avoid in wetter years; fresh plants are always very palatable, including lots of prickly pear cacti.

While some plant species are more resistant to rabbits compared to many others, the only plants that I know of which are rabbitproof are ocotillo and rosemary. Security is worth its time and price. Create chickenwire “cages” with three to four bets just beyond the fresh plants’ foliage, to stop rabbits from nibbling. Such protection has to be removed as the plant grows, however.

Some areas have javelina (wild pigs), which are particularly fond of a number of plants and can be very harmful. To Find out More, see “Javelina Resistant Plants,” from the University of Arizona, also “Living With Javelina,” from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Photo courtesy of Alan Vernon

BOXHILL

Plan ahead to get a garden. While we are enjoying the start to fall foliage colour, especially at the high zone, don’t overlook the need for visual interest that includes strong evergreen looks during winter. Instead of settling on a design with a strong seasonal motif that holds together visually for just a few weeks, aim for a mixture of evergreen and deciduous foliage to get a garden. Massing local native cacti and shrubs, such as turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia) or creosote bush(Larrea tridentata), can accomplish this job nicely.

From the lower zones, the same is true — using deciduous plants whose foliage drops is perfectly appropriate once you pair them with evergreen species. Mexican evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa), ocotillo and desert willow (Chilopsis linearis) will add some seasonal interest — and you will find a bonus of blooms during the growing season.

And no matter the Southwestern zone, it’s most beneficial to think about species which thrive and older with less water and in our often highly alkaline soils.

Revealed: threadgrass (Nasella tenuissima), prickly pear cactus (Opuntia), ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) and Texas sage (Leucophyllum).

More: More guides to Southwest gardening | Locate your U.S. garden checklist

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