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This is a small genus of only seven species but the number of plants is increased by a large number of cultivars. They are shrubs with evergreen, leathery leaves. Their main point of interest in the garden is their fruit. These are round and hang in clusters. The colour differs according to variety and can be yellow, orange or red. It is the brilliant nature of the fruit that gives it part of its name ‘firethorn’. The second part of the name comes from the fact that the stems are spiny. This makes them good for creating impenetrable hedges and also for planting under windows and against walls to deter intruders. The flowers are white and are similar to those of hawthorn. Like the fruit later in the season, they can cover the whole bush.

They can be planted in any soil and in any aspect, from full sun to quite deep shade, although in the latter the shrub becomes rather lax, and flowering and fruiting is impaired. Although they are most frequently planted against walls or fences, they can be used as free-standing shrubs. Avoid eating the fruit as, although not fatally poisonous, they can cause stomach complaints. No pruning is required unless it gets too big. Regular trimming back in spring will keep it compact.

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