Friday, November 21, 2008

Cotinus 'Grace': just about the last spectacular color this fall!

It was cold today: 20 MPH sustained winds from the Northwest combined with temperatures in the mid 30s F made for an unpleasant afternoon on the Bobcat. Temperatures are expected to stay in the 20s at night for the next week or so. This is January weather not November weather, but the silver lining is that those winter-flowering plants that require just a bit of vernalization are getting it so that when things warm up in December, as they almost always do, they will flower. Among others, Wintersweet, Chimonanthus praecox, one of the most wonderfully fragrant plant in cultivation will likely be flowering by Christmas.

The plants in the picture are Cotinus x 'Grace' which is a hybrid between two Smoketrees: the native Cotinus obovatus and its Asian counterpart Cotinus coggygria. These individuals are growing along the Flowering Tree Walk at the National Arboretum just below the Herb Garden. (the golden hollies Ilex x attenuata 'Sunny Fosters' are visible in the background) Grace is a great plant; the new leaves are intriguingly colored in various warm hues that mature to a nice bluish purple, typical frothy smoketree flowers follow in late spring and the fall foliage is obviously wonderful. This is a tough plant that likes full sun, prefers good drainage, and doesn't need or want a lot of water in the summer. It is a good choice for a small tree as an accent in the lawn.

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