Friday, June 18, 2010

Smoke Trees

Smoke trees (Cotinus coggygria) are wonderful additions to small, urban gardens. They may eventually reach 25' in height, but can be pruned to stay much smaller. Typically, they are multi-stemmed, but can be trained to have a single trunk, as this one has.

Smoke trees come in both green and purple-leafed forms, but the purple seems most popular here in Seattle. Some cultivars have purple leaves in spring that gradually turn green over the summer. If you want plants that hold their purple color until fall, choose varieties like: 'Royal Purple' and 'Velvet Cloak.'

They are called "smoke" trees because as their flowers fade, they take on a fuzzy appearance that looks like puffs of smoke.
Here you can see a closeup of the tiny, yellow-green flowers and those gorgeous purple leaves. Later in summer, these flowers will take on that characteristic "smoky" look.

In addition to the dramatic flower display, smoke trees have stunning red-orange fall color. They are also drought tolerant, once established. They thrive in poor, rocky soil. And they come in colors other than purple, which you can read about in this post, More Smoke Trees.