Submitted By: Richard Gibson
Assistant Horticulturist with the UT Gardens, Jackson

This time of year many of us seem to get a little “down in the dumps.” The temperatures are cold, the skies are gloomy and the garden is taking a rest. We have a tendency to stay cooped up inside and not explore nature. However, if you can bring yourself to venture into the garden, Mother Nature has a lot to offer. You might be surprised at the beauty you come across. Take a look at a public gardens or even a friends for inspiration for you own.
Many plants provide winter interest. Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) shows off clusters of cheerful red berries, red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea, C. sanguinea, and C. alba) reveals bright red stems and ‘Florida Sunshine’ anise (Illicum parvaflorum) displays vibrant chartreuse foliage. These plants become the center of attention in the winter garden. One particular example I have grown fond of is Cotoneaster lacteus (syn. Cotoneaster parneyi), commonly known as parney cotoneaster. The genus Cotoneaster contains at least 70 species, but unfortunately, their use is limited in much of the United States due to several factors. As Dr. Michael Dirr notes, most species are susceptible to excessive heat, heavy wet soils, lace bug, mites and fireblight, which contribute to their relatively short life in the landscape. With that being said, C. lacteus is truly the exception to the rule – it is virtually pest free.
Parney cotoneaster was introduced to the U.S. in 1930 from western China. Growing to between 6-ft and 8-ft tall and wide in 10 years, its habit is somewhat upright and spreading, with graceful arching branches. This evergreen produces 2-in. to 3-in. clusters of small white flowers in mid May to early June. The flowers give way to beautiful bright red berries that remain on the plant through winter, making this cotoneaster a showstopper.

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