Plants can be described as “useful” in the sense that they can perform a variety of roles in a landscape. Any plant that has persistent colourful berries over the winter, forms a thick barrier screen or hedge and can also be espaliered against a fence or wall would certainly have to have the useful moniker attached to it. Pyracantha angustifolia ‘Yukon Belle’ is one of the few broadleaf evergreen plants in our climate that can perform multiple functions in the garden. The heavy crop of orange berries it carries into winter is enough to make it a garden-worthy plant in my humble opinion; everything else it achieves is a bonus.
‘Yukon Belle’ will grow eight feet tall and wide in the right setting. Full sun results in the best production of white summer blooms, followed by the orange berries, but plants will grow well in partial shade as well. Good soil with even moisture through the growing season is important, as is making sure the soil is well-watered going into winter. The thorny branches give the plant its common name, Firethorn. They also make this relative of the rose unpopular with deer. ‘Yukon Belle’ is the hardiest of all of the many cultivars, surviving temperatures down to -25 deg. C. I have seen the plant die back completely in severe winters, only to be resurrected from the roots the following spring.
Plants will form large, impenetrable hedges and barriers. Pyracantha is very well-suited for growing against a fence or wall. Prune the branches annually to keep the growth flat against the surface and you’ll be rewarded with a living fence effect. The berry crop attracts birds through the winter. Regular pruning will keep Firethorn from becoming as one garden writer described it “wild and wooly.”

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