Did I mention I love Blotanical? I find it amazing how the love of gardening brings people together from all over the world. On a daily basis, I am not only talking to people from Ontario, but also from England, South Africa, Germany, and all over the US. But it was chatting to a lovely lady from Australia that inspire this post.
It is always heart warming when someone admires you blog, and when catmint faved me, just out of the blue I was chuffed (see, too much time spent living in England, I have even picked up some of the slang!). Messages were exchanged back and forth, and when 20 messages about smoke bush were sent on Blotanical, she suggested we write a post about it.
So here it is.
What can I say about smokebush other than I love it? Is it not the perfect plant. Large dramatic leaves, amazing colours, I just love it. (Wait, I already said that).
This is Purple Cloak, photo courtesy of Catmint.
When I was living in Kingston, Ontario, I had a black and white garden. At that time, (almost 7 years ago), black plants were not very common. I was always looking for them, mostly they were more of a dark maroony purple. But that is ok, I could live with that. And I found smokebush, Royal Purple to be exact. Oh, I was in love (you notice I am using the word love a lot). Velvety purple leaves, it was glorious. I quickly bought two, and planted them on either side of an arbour that I had bought to divide my (tiny) garden into “rooms. These quickly grew up and gave some definition and hid the garden behind. But wait, what is wrong with my dark, velvety leaves, why were they going greeny, purple. A bit of investigation by Sherlock Mills, and I found out the reason. The new growth has the most colour (should have been obvious just looking at it). So, I learned to coppice my smoke bush. What a difference, so fast growing, it seems that it sprung up and hid the thyme garden behind overnight. And the leaves were so dark. However the best thing is….
OK, can you keep a secret? I don’t like the flower. I find it very messy looking and I think that it dies unattractively. It doesn’t flower on new growth so coppicing was a winning solution all around for me.
Now there are so many new varieties out, I might have to try them all. How about “Golden Spirit” a bright chartreuse (my favourite colour), or “Grace”. She is supposed to emerge a light red and darken through the summer. She sounds yummy as well. The best thing about coppicing the smoke bush is it really keeps the size in check. They can get up to 4 metres or 12 feet , big for a small garden.
Grace, photo courtesy of Catmint
I hope that you are going to give me the dirt (so to speak) on your adventures with smokebush.
Looking forward to hearing from you soon,
Purple Cloak, photo curtesy of Catmint
It was great to get your letter about smokebush. I am also a great fan of this bush. In fact I wonder whether we should start an international fan club for smokebush, if one doesn’t already exist. I would have no objections that you be the president but the problem is that people may find out your secret that you don’t like the flowers! I love the flowers, which gives it that romantic smoky haze.
In my garden I have two varieties: Purple Cloak and Grace. Grace is more orange but at times is olive green, Velvet Cloak darker and more maroony purple. They change all the year round – changing their colour foliage and then dropping their leaves. Actually I wonder whether Royal Purple and Purple Cloak is the same plant but with different labels.
I have also found they are fast growing and Grace is getting quite big for its (her?) place. I do trim it but not as radically I think as coppicing. That’s another wonderful thing about them – they don’t mind being shaped.
Grace, photo courtesy of Catmint
I believe smokebush came originally from California, which has a similar climate to Melbourne and has plants that don’t mind migrating across the world. So tough that they withstand transplanting and not watering. Their botanical name is Cotinus.
Smokebush are a wonderful contrast to green and grey leaved plants. We have similar aesthetics Deborah because my favourite plant colours are probably black or at least dark purple. I also love the idea of garden rooms. I have found that if you don’t see the boundary you have no idea how large or small the garden is. Unfortunately in my garden the rooms keep disappearing as the walls get shifted around.
Good to share the dirt on smokebush with you.