PRUNING Cotinus - Royal Purple

Discussion in 'Woody Plants' started by TownMouse, Jun 13, 2009.

  1. TownMouse

    TownMouse Member

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    Is there an advantage to removing the plumes? If so, before/ during/ after bloom?

    Planted three in a spot they seem to love (dry area). For the first 2 years I carefully removed EVERY flower bud, hoping energy would be diverted to taller plants. Warmer-than-normal spring yielded buds, then plumes -- all during our 2-weeks-away vacation. (Frankly, I prefer these withOUT the plumes but they will be too tall for my reach by next year.)

    Does one leave the plumes ON the plant? Do the plumes become dry and hard (as with lilac flowers)? Will these drop off in the autumn? If so, at the same time as the leaves are shed?

    Thank you in advance for any replies.
     
  2. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    I don't think many people make a practice of dead-heading the flower plumes. They're generally considered a feature, not a bug. They don't dry and become everlasting but rather take on an airy or "smoky" appearance that persists right through the summer.

    What a lot of people seem to do, once the plant reaches a certain size, is to prune it severely to within a foot or two of the ground just before the start of the growing season. (I think this procedure is called stooling.) This causes the plant to throw up vigorous long fresh shoots with very big leaves. I've never done this.
     
  3. togata57

    togata57 Contributor 10 Years

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    Sounds horrid. These people should, at the very least, be arrested for tree abuse.

    I have noticed that some of the smoke bushes in my neighborhood have their regular, normal leaf growth, but their plumes are atop these long leafless shoots that stick way up...What gives? (These bushes, I am glad to say, do not appear to have been "STOOLED". Ugh!) I'm thinking that it would be a good idea to prune these after plumation is over...? This phenomenon seems to affect mainly the dark varieties. ---There is a MAGNIFICENT rose-plumed Cotinus that lives just a few blocks from me. It is a unusually tall and robust specimen with a nice shape (hey, sounds good, don't it?!) and has always produced comely plumes. THIS year, however it has surpassed itself and is one huge ball of smoke!!! A veritable Cotinus cumulus. I can just spy it when I halt at the stop sign near my house...more than once I have earned an expletive from the driver behind me. Time stands still when one contemplates beauty.
     
  4. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    Haha! I suspect the madness might have begun with Christopher Lloyd, the English gardening writer. He has a penchant for taking species that want to be trees, and growing them as foliage plants in a mixed border -- which of course entails chopping them nearly to the ground every year. He does this with sumac and ailanthus and other species with large or exotic-looking leaves. (Come to think of it, this may be the only sensible way to grow ailanthus.)

    I heard a gardening lady on NPR (in the US) say that if you try to give Cotinus a regular light pruning, as you might any other shrub, to maintain its shape or prevent it from growing too large, it may "reward" you by sending up long leggy stems -- maybe this is what she was talking about. (And maybe this helps explain the practice of stooling.)

    It would be interesting to know what variety this is, or whether it's just an especially well-grown specimen of the same thing everybody else grows. ('Royal Purple' seems to be the big thing around here.)

    I salute you for the phrase "Cotinus cumulus."
     
  5. togata57

    togata57 Contributor 10 Years

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    kaspian: Thanks for your response, which I found both informative and entertaining! (Sounds like caption material for Neil Degrasse Tyson.) Hmm. Perhaps what should be learned from the NPR lady's advice is the wisdom of the sound '60's philosophy---let smoke bushes do their own thing.

    As for Christopher Lloyd (wasn't he in "Back To The Future" et.al.?) the man clearly has a dangerous psychologicial imbalance of which Freud would make much. Yikes. Should be physically restrained before committing further arboreal atrocities. I visualize a stalking manoeuvre undertaken whilst he is busy at his noisome task...at the climactic moment the strait jacket is flung over his head and secured by two burly but kind orderlies. As his shrieks fade into the distance toward the hospital van, we hear the orderlies gently say "Come along, Mr. Lloyd, you'll be feeling much better very soon" and "Oh, no, sir, doctor won't allow them nasty old clippers". A reporter of serious demeanor leans into frame and speaks in a sonorous baritone: "Tonight we can all sleep well, knowing that this peripatetic limb-lopper is receiving the treatment he so desperately needs, and that smoke bushes all across our great country can grow freely again." Nearly Monty Python-esque! The perfect venue for the Knights Who Say "NI".

    Perhaps it's an English thing. I remember how revolted I was when I fully realized just what "pollarded elms" were and how they got that way. As Roderick Alleyn might say: Great hopping fleas! Creepy.

    Yes, I too would like to know the variety of the titanic Cotinus. Am contemplating parking across the street from it and taking pictures...should first get up a betting pool on the dual issues of: 1. elapsed time between that of my arrival and a city cop pulling up behind me, and; 2. who would be my first visitor---cop, or criminal element relieving me of my camera? I suppose I could boldly knock on the door and ask...if I see a handwritten "BEWEAR OF DOGG" sign or hear a guttural growling (canid, human, or other) emanating from behind the door, I could always back away slowly and then run for my life. ---Barring that, and what I WILL do, is take a stroll 'round the internet and see if I can spot any s.b. varieties which resemble. ---My favorites are dark ones, but this one is just a pip. Smokes are pinkish, kinda like an old-fashioned face powder color. I will post here if my quest bears smoke. Excelsior!
     
  6. togata57

    togata57 Contributor 10 Years

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    OK, here goes! Have photographed the fabled bush (without untoward incident, but with puzzled glances from passersby) and have enlisted my daughter's help to post the smoke o' my labors. Amazing how the plumes alter in perceived color depending on quality and angle of light. When I got close and looked up, they appeared nearly white...slightly different angle showed golden highlights...and from a distance the plumes look distinctly pink. Beautiful!

    Anyone with an idea of this variety's name, please utter! I know that this specimen has been in its spot for 20 years, probably longer. One of the older varieties...perhaps one reason I feel an affinity for it!
     

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  7. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    Terrific photos, Togata!

    I am wracking my brain trying to remember where I was just reading, within the past couple of weeks, somebody's discussion of different Cotinus varieties. I thought it was in a book by Carole Ottesen, but now I can't find it. Anyway, the gist of it was that if you're hoping for the biggest, showiest, smokiest plumes, you should forget the dark-leaved varieties and look instead to the ordinary species, C. coggygria, or a green-leaved cultivar. The writer then went on to rattle off a few specific varieties. Where, oh where, did I read this. (If it turns out to be Christopher Lloyd, you'll never hear another word about this, I promise.)

    Anyhow, here are two suspects:

    - 'Daydream' is described as "a dense green-leaved shrub with exceptionally abundant pink flowers."

    - 'Grace' is a hybrid between C. coggygria and the native C. obovatus. The Forest Farm catalog sez: "Huge (to 14' high x 11' wide) pink smoky flwr clusters, lt.red new growth & spectacular fall color."

    There's also something called 'Pink Champagne' but this seems to be a newer variety.

    I grow 'Velvet Cloak' which is rich deep purple-red, though the flowering so far has been modest, and 'Golden Spirit,' a really pleasing yellow-leaved plant with a beautiful shape that produces (so far) smallish and reddish flowers. I'm not so sure I like the contrast of the newly-opened blossoms against the leaves (which in themselves are a lovely soft green-yellow), but as the petals drop, the filigree of threadlike "smoke" is lighter and more harmonious.

    What I want to try next is a new variety called 'Old Fashioned' that is said to have blue leaves. Blue leaves that open a pale pink.
     
  8. togata57

    togata57 Contributor 10 Years

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    From my internet gazing, I was kinda thinking 'Grace' as the most likely candidate. Had not previously known about obovatus---an infusion of this sp. strikes me as a likely reason for this bush's size. (It's even bigger than it appears to be in pix.)

    So, for now, I will call this beauty by the apt name of 'Grace'.

    kaspian, thanks for your interest and information! I am cheered to know that my Cotinus affection is a shared one. Good luck with your 'Old Fashioned'---description sounds lovely!
     

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