Old Fashioned SmoketreeCotinus coggygria 'Old Fashioned' (PP# 19,035)
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Cotinus coggygria 'Old Fashioned' (PP# 19,035)
Outdoor Growing zone
The Old Fashioned Smoketree is a new take on a classic garden shrub that has filled gardens with color for a very long time. It is an ever-changing parade of foliage color, with its smooth round leaves beginning in spring deep red, tinted with purple-gray. In summer they turn a unique blue-green, and then in fall they are among the brightest shrubs in the garden, with a symphony of oranges, red and purples. The ‘smoke’ arrives in June, when a cloud of dusky-pink flower clusters float over the whole plant – a totally unique look. Grow it as a background shrub, a lawn specimen or an informal screen, it is always lovely and very easy to grow.
Plant the Old Fashioned Smoketree in full sun for the best colors and blooms. It is hardy to zone 5, and it survives in zone 4 with perhaps a little winter injury. It thrives in poor and dry soils, once established, and resists drought and neglect with ease. For the best blooming forget about pruning – although you can trim in late winter if you want to keep it a little smaller. Pests and diseases are virtually unknown.
‘Everything old is new again’, they say. That is definitely true with the Old-Fashioned Smoketree, which might sound like something your grandma had in her garden. In fact it is a recent variety that captures the old-fashioned charm of a simple plant, before breeders messed around and made it into a fashion statement. The smoketree is a tough, reliable plant for filling areas of your garden with attractive foliage, and a tree in bloom really does look like a cloud of dusky pink smoke has settled over your bush. Easy to grow and vigorous, this plant is ideal as a specimen planted out on a lawn, where it can really show off, but it works just as well at the back of your beds. The Old-Fashioned Smoketree starts the year with a bright show of gray-tinted pink-purple new leaves, which change to a cool blue-green for summer and then turn fierce reds, purples and oranges in fall. Lots of color and very little work – the perfect plant for the busy gardener.
The Old-Fashioned Smoketree is a rounded deciduous shrub, growing 6 or 8 feet tall, and spreading outwards to about 6 feet across. The branches are thick, and they grow out at broad angles, giving the tree a unique winter profile, almost like a set of antlers. This variety has nearly circular leaves, which are 3½ inches long and almost 3 inches across, with smooth edges and a slightly glossy surface. The new leaves in spring are a deep rich red, with overtones of gray-purple.
It is during the early summer months when this tree blooms. The actual flowers are tiny, greenish and inconspicuous, but they are carried in clusters of long, feather hairs that are a delicious smoky pink color. This creates the ’smoke’ that tops the plant all through June, giving it a completely unique look, like no other plant we know.
In summer the foliage matures to a very unusual blue green, which is the ‘old-fashioned’ thing about this plant. This cool color is very attractive to see during hot weather, and means your plant looks different, instead of being the same every day. As the cooler nights of fall arrive the leaves take on amazing colors of brilliant red, oranges and purples, and this is one of the most colorful fall shrubs available. It is easy to see what a varied picture this great plant paints in your garden through the changing seasons – never a dull moment.
This shrub is perfect to place out on a lawn, where it can grow to its mature size and become an attractive specimen plant. Grow it along the back of your shrub beds, for an ever-changing backdrop to your flowers. Create a screen or informal hedge to enclose your garden or use it to fill the empty corners of your yard. For a continuous screen allow about 4 feet between each plant and they will soon grow together.
The Old Fashioned Smoketree is completely hardy in zone 5 and in all warmer zones except for zone 9, so it can be grown across most of the country. Even in zone 4 it will usually survive, with some winter damage that can easily be pruned away, although it will be smaller, and it may not flower every year. Still, you can still enjoy its lovely foliage transformations.
For good growth the Old Fashioned Smoketree should be grown in full sun, or in as much sun as possible. Too much shade will make the leaves greener, and the plant less bushy, with weaker growth. This tough shrub prefers drier, well-drained soils, including sandy soils, rough ground and urban soils. Avoid wet places, but water young plants weekly for the first summer – after that they will be very drought resistant.
Although it can easily be pruned as needed in early spring, it is better to leave the Old Fashioned Smoketree to grow naturally, if you have allowed enough room. Unpruned plants flower best, and pruning often results in long, awkward stems developing, creating an ungainly looking plant. Remove the spent flower heads for neatness, although that isn’t necessary. Pests and diseases are almost unknown, and this is a very easy and reliable plant to grow, needing virtually no care at all.
The Smoketree, Cotinus coggygria, grows naturally in rocky and wild places, too tough for forests to develop, such as on hillsides and mountain slopes. It grows over a very large area, from Southern Europe eastward all the way to central China. It has been grown in European gardens for centuries, and almost as long in America. There is a rare native species, Cotinus obovata, growing in the south, which was used widely in the past for the dye in its wood. It is conceivable that it is in fact an escaped population of the European tree, derived from early settlements.
In the 1980s Henny Kolster, a nurseryman in Boskoop, The Netherlands, collected some seed from smoketrees he had growing, and raised a batch of seedlings. In 1989 he noticed one plant that had unusually large and round leaves, and unique foliage coloring. He selected it and grew more from stem pieces. Naming it ‘Old Fashioned’, he patented it in America in 2008.
We love the classic features of this tree, with its ever-changing leaf colors. It is a reliable and tough addition to your garden, that will amaze you with its versatility and charming smoke effect. These trees are always in high demand from gardeners who need tough plants, so order now, before our supplies run out.