AFTER SUMMER'S BLOOMS HAVE FADED, THE TINY FRUITS OF FALL COME INTO THEIR OWN
My favorite segue between thick, green summer's end and the first hints of those heady autumnal tints are the brilliant hues of berries. I'm not talking about the beguiling and eccentric seed pods produced by some dogwoods, arums and the like, but the fabulous fruiting shrubs like cotoneaster, the under-appreciated nandina and the exceptionally enthralling callicarpa.
If this unpredictable extremist season holds true at all, we should be seeing berries right about now, or at least very soon. Usually, they follow on the heels of the charming late bloomers like the Japanese anemone "Honorine Jobert" and those wonderfully gaudy, hearty hibiscuses. But in this crazy, anti-eco 21st century, in which our dependable cycles have fizzled under acute heat and unrelenting rain, the natural order is all but defunct. The berries, however, should still make it on schedule because they are not fragile, take a while to form and have staying power.
The shrub-size, cascading cotoneaster is a miraculous thing when it sweeps over a stairway or creates an arching, lacy background. The ground cover versions make the most fabulously intricate carpets. Big or small, each variety has many tiny leaves that form a dense, arching, layered effect. They also love sun, and in the spring they produce insignificant but sweet whitish flowers.
What they don't have is a good name: Cotoneaster is pronounced "ka-tony-aster," which must account for their lack of popularity, because otherwise they are incomparable (C. horizontalis is beautifully droopy and C. franchetii is one of the most elegant with sage green leaves).