Cotoneaster horizontalis is a low-growing groundcover shrub with architectural branches that arch up and fall, then span out in a shapely herringbone pattern to create a dense mound. Its strong, long, branched stems are peppered with tiny round glossy leaves that, come autumn, turn to red and pink tones that mingle prettily with its bright red berries, which it often carries well into the new year. As a bonus, it has delicate little white flowers in late spring. It's also hugely popular with wildlife: birds love the berries, bees love the flowers, and all kinds of creatures take advantage of its tough cover for shelter. It's a bit too short to make a proper hedge so if you want something more tractable, take a look at some of the other shrubs in our hedging range. However, it can be grown up to waist height and it is ideal for growing along the bottom of walls or as cover for verges and banks.
Cotoneaster is average in its growth rate, and although some complain of its propensity for self seeding, the seedlings aren't hard to grub out, and if you want it to, you can leave it to take over in cracks in walls and paving to create a carpet of colour and structure that's super tough, hardy and wonderfully cheery in the autumn and winter months, softening walls, rock gardens and terraces to wonderful effect. They cope with hard pruning if needed, and any kind of soil, including chalk. The only thing it really won't tolerate is boggy conditions. Combine it with climbers, if you like, to weave in extra colour. A shorter clematis such as Clematis alpina Frances Rivis would do well in a semi-shaded spot, tangling itself up and through the branches of the cotoneaster.
This Chinese plant was brought to Europe in the 1870s by a French missionary. Its 'berries' are technically 'pomes', a fruit with a core and/or central seed and edible skin, so more like an apple than a berry in fact.