Garden School:


Garden School:
Teaching this week: Rose pruning (as always!) and leaf mold.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Cotinus coggygria: time for the annual prune.

February is a good time to think about pruning Cotinus or Smoke Bush: they are mostly strongly-growing, vigorous shrubs that can take over and smother other planting, and they tend to get rather leggy and bare around the base if left to their own devices.

There is another reason for cutting them back very hard each year - you get a much better showing of foliage - bigger leaves, and much closer to eye level!  

Of course, bigger foliage will usually come at the expense of flowers - Cotinus coggygria flower on older wood, so by cutting it back every year you might not get the flowers, but personally I'm not too worried about this, as I tend to grow only the purple-leaved cultivars ('Royal Purple' is my particular favourite) and I would rather have the foliage than the flowers, which are tiny but which appear in a lovely hazy cloud, if we get a good sunny summer.

 Here is a largely unpruned Cotinus coggygria "Royal Purple" in one of my gardens: this was taken a couple of years ago, when we actually had a decent summer, and the fluffy purple haze of flowers makes a lovely contrast to the weeping pear next door, both in colour and in texture.

There's not much sense of scale here, but I can tell you that the flowering starts at about my head height.

If you grow the green-leaved variety, then you might prefer to allow it to flower, as their flowering is much more of a golden affair... but for me, I would only ever give garden space to the purple-leaved ones, on the basis that there is enough greenery in the garden already!

I wrote a piece about annual pruning of Cotinus for GreenPlantSwap last week - so if you'd like to read a little bit about how to do it, head on over there!

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