Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Day 142
The Daily DuBrule

I remember a long time ago I planted a golden chain tree in a client's yard. This man's delight in his evolving garden was a joy to behold. He called me one May day and told my "my golden chain tree is chaining!". I cracked up and never forgot that comment. Of course, it caused me to extrapolate that concept to other plants. The natural segue was "my smoke bush is smokin'!" So on Sunday, when I walked out into my garden, that is exactly what I said to myself. 

I have two smokebushes (Cotinus coggygria). The one pictured above is 'Young Lady', so named because it blooms at an early age. Boy does it. I've only had it in the garden for a few years and it has bloomed every June since I planted it. Right now I have milkweed in flower, weaving its way into the puffy blossoms. I leave as much milkweed as I can for the monarch butterflies and I also love their funny round flowers that smell so wonderful. 
Last year, in July, when my father died, I picked a huge bouquet of smokebush flowers and put them in a vase in my living room to decorate the house for company. I neglected to refresh the water and they dried beautifully, remaining there well into the fall.

The other smokebush that I have is Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', or the purple leaf smoke bush. This lives in my courtyard. It is a subtle bow to the wood fired pizza oven that shares that space. Anyway, this plant is also in flower, but the flowers are light purple and not as puffy and showy. I like them anyway. The flowers appear on the tips of last year's wood, and this plant was bent to the ground in the October snowstorm. Rather than pruning it back, I quickly brushed off the heavy snow and encouraged it to stand back up on its own two feet. It did, in a quirky kind of way, looking a bit open and gangly all season. But, if I wanted flowers, I had to leave it alone. In August, once the flowers have finished, I will give it a really good, proper shaping. The bottom of this plant has already been pruned as it leaned over the labyrinth and I couldn't walk it without going off track. The result of this fall pruning is that the lower half of the plant is fat, full, and gorgeous- but no flowers. That's okay with me. In England, this plant is grown in the background of the borders and pruned constantly to encourage the best maroon foliage. No one seems to worry that it doesn't flower. I also like to cut the branches of my purple leaf smoke bush in the fall for arrangements. As the weather gets cold, the veins start to turn bright pink. The round leaves hold up really well as cut foliage. 

1 comment:

  1. NONSMOKERS: That is what Colleen, my friend and fellow professional gardener calls them when she cuts smokebushes back all the time and grows them only as foliage plants!