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Smokey Look Lasts

This article was first published on 21 Feb 2017.

Cotinus 'Grace'

Cotinus 'Grace'

Photo by the Otago Daily Times

In July last year I wrote a Plant Life article on the stunning smoke bush Cotinus'Grace'. It’s a cross between the European smoke bush Cotinus coggygria and the American form, Cotinus obovatus.

My focus was on drawing your attention to the lingering autumn colour. While I’m back singing its praise again, this time it’s the summer flowering display that has caught my eye.

It’s absolutely stunning. As you can see in the photo, this shrub is covered with the spent flower clusters that turn to a smokey pink colour in summer, covering the tree and giving the branch tips a fluffy, hazy, smokey look. Hence the common name smoke bush.

The ideal time to prune is late winter to early spring. Hard pruning of this one is required this winter to reshape and tidy. This will result in loss of flower for a few seasons. However there is a bonus - the cultivars of Cotinus coggygria and Cotinus obovatus tend to produce larger leaves when hard pruned, making their vivid orangey red autumn colouring particularly striking. If wanting to retain a good flowering display prune only lightly to tidy up.

To check out this end-of-summer display you can find this Cotinus located in the border parallel to Lindsay Creek and opposite the Wolf Harris fountain. Combining nicely with the perennials planted nearby, this combination works well together.

Linda Hellyer is curator of the herbaceous borders at Dunedin Botanic Garden.