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Cotoneaster HUGE! what do i do?

mattjohnwilliamsmattjohnwilliams Posts: 3
edited October 2019 in Plants
Hello everyone,

This is my first time posting in the forum and its a big one! 

My wife and I have just bought our first house together in Switzerland. We love the house and its 1000 sqm garden But we have a question we need answering.

We have a a bit of a slope around the perimeter. 47 years ago the last owner planted a number of Cotoneaster plants. These have grown on a massive scale. They are really taking over the garden. There is so much wood within these plants, up to and around 4 inch thick branches. There really is only a thin layer of green on top of maybe 24-36 inch of woody stems.

I understand these plants are put here to stop soil erosion but we really would like to cut these back and fill the gaps with some alternative planting. I don't want to get rid of them but they definitely need some attention.

My question is, how do i do this? Where too hard prune back to? and how to control them once I've done so?

I have attached some pictures so you get an idea of what we are dealing with! It really is the bank and inside the garden. there is a lot more also but don't want to bombard all with photos.



  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,052
    Hi @mattjohnwilliams- don't worry - you can hack away to your heart's content!
    They're fairly indestructible. You'll lose flowers/berries etc on them for a while, but they should come back no problem. 
    It may be tricky planting in amongst them though, as they tend to take over and smother most things, but it's a case of choosing wisely, and getting some soil into the pockets for plants to get a hold.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Hi @Fairygirl that's great, thank you very much for your advice! So it's really no problem to get in there and cut back to the main stem? I was thinking to take all of this dead wood out and let them regrow in a nice orderly fashion 😊 I wanted to plant some larger shrubs in amongst it. I think it will be a never ending task of trimming these back. They seem to be pretty persistent 😝
  • BrexiteerBrexiteer Posts: 955
    Looks beautiful where you are mate ☺
  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,783
    How many plants are there in that, what looks to be about 10m wide?

    and when you say 4” wide, do you mean in circumference?

    and when you say cut back, do you mean right back to ground level?
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,052
    They can be quite 'healthy' in their growth @mattjohnwilliams!
    If you want other shrubs, why not just take them out altogether? That might be a better option. You will have to hack back regualrly to keep them in check. They can grow almost anywhere. 
    There's a lot of varieties, and some are well behaved, but yours are hellbent on world domination, so you need a firm grip on the loppers  ;)
    I love them, as they're so useful for insects and birds, but I know how easily they can take over.
    Perhaps you could take one right back and see how it grows again. Then you can make a judgement on the maintenance of them, and whether it would be easier to remove completely. You don't want the garden to be a chore, so it's about getting a balance for yourself.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 83,797
    Personally I would leave the ones on the bank in the third picture. It looks great
    and gardening on a bank can be so difficult.  I’d probably give the others a very good tidy then you’ll be able to see your options. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,228
    Agree with Dove re the ones on the steep bank, they're doing the job they were intended for. You could create some gaps to establish a few more trees but I would generally leave the Cotoneaster in situ.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 52,052
    Yes - great for banks. My sister's friend has a similar, awkward area, and I gave her some bits and pieces for it. Erosion is a problem in her garden, and she's not able to manage it so well now as she's been ill, so that type of planting is very useful.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Some Cotoneasters C. frigidus are trees and are grown for super flaking bark as well as the red berries.
    It would be sad if you cut these down to the ground.
    Perthshire. SCOTLAND .
  • mattjohnwilliamsmattjohnwilliams Posts: 3
    edited October 2019
    Wow, thanks for all your answers! This was a good response. Thank you @BirminghamMarc1972 we are in the Tösstal region of Zurich. It really is beautiful here. We are at a  around a height 750 meters. Looking forward to the first snowfall in around a 2 week's time. 

    Actually @Tin pot I just measured the full length. Which is actually 27 meters and at certain points a drop of 5 meters. I have no idea how many plants there are here. The under groth is so big and matted, I really can't make out what is what. Actually no, it's the diameter that is 4"! I know it's a beast! No not cut to ground level, just enough that it can grow in a bit more orderly. 

    @Fairygirl I'd really like to keep them as they are quite spectacular, especially the size of them. But yes maybe I experiment on one and see what happens.

    @Dovefromabove @WillDB I think you are right. The steep parts of the bank I think I do leave but maybe where there are leveled areas within I could cut some pathways where I could plant other shrubs and give me access to trim the cotoneaster also. 

    @Silver surfer don't worry I wouldn't cut them down to the ground. There does seem to be a lot of wildlife living in here which I love. I actually think in one area there is a badger set. I discovered today an area in the back of the garden which is being used as a toilet. I believe badgers dig shallow holes and always visit to make their deposit every evening in the same place. Also found some tracks through the cotoneaster. I will be careful not to disturb anything. 

    The whole garden and area is beautiful, very natural looking and established. I just want to make it better and not quite so daunting to maintain. The whole garden has got a little out of hand in the last few years as the previous owners were elderly and unfortunately after the husband died last year his wife couldn't manage it. 

    At the same time as doing the garden I have taken on the task of renovating the house too. But we have forever to do it and there is nothing I enjoy more than this so I'm happy 🤗

    Again, thank you all for your help so far. I will definitely be visiting the forum a lot now with many questions 👍

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