The Pyracantha is an evergreen, versatile and wonderful shrub to have in your garden at this time of the year.

Firethorn, as it's also called, has many roles to play, but is most popularly planted against walls. It will succeed even if facing north, given a little reasonable quality soil. Pyracantha are also ideal for informal hedging, or screens, as they are well armed with fierce thorns which create an impenetrable barrier. They also make superb specimens when standing alone.

Leading pyracantha varieties

'Orange Glow' is the star turn, a strong and fairly upright plant that has branches absolutely smothered with orange red fruits from the autumn until deep into the winter. Not only does it berry successfully, but it also has masses of very attractive hawthorn like creamy white summer blossoms. 

'Soleil d'Or' is the yellow berried form. Maybe not quite so strong in growth as 'Orange Glow', but its million tiny yellow orbs each shine like the sun, lighting up the greyest days.

'Mohave' has orange red berries that are a magnet for foraging birds. Members of the Thrush family like the Redwing and the larger Fieldfare, with its slate grey back, will become regular visitors at the feast.          

Planting, maintenance and problems

Planting can be done at any time of year unless the ground is frozen or waterlogged, but autumn is best. Fertile, well-drained soil is best, although they are tolerant of heavier soils as long as they are not waterlogged and in full sun or semi-shade. 

If planting against a wall, leave a gap of about 18ins, and preferably tie the stem to wires attached to the wall. There should be about 5ft between plants or about 2ft if you are planting a hedge. Feed with a balanced general fertilizer each winter and lay a thick mulch of organic matter.       

When pruning, avoid last year's growth which will carry the next crop of berries. A hedge should be pruned three times a year starting in the spring.

Pyracantha scab is the main problem, it's a fungal disease resulting in loss of blossom and leaves and disfigured fruit. It's important that you collect fallen leaves, cut out affected fruit and stems, then burn. Alternatively, choose a resistant variety such as 'Shawnee' or 'Teton'.