We still have a snowy landscape although the expected warm up over the weekend should melt everything off by early next week when temperatures start to reach 60 degrees F and warmer! That should get some more early bulbs in bloom as well as our earliest of perennials. We had a cozy day at the Horticulture Center which included lots of volunteer help. Kathy and Cindy helped with processing our seeds for the growers. I’ll be dropping off most of our seeds to our excellent growers in the next week or two. Kay came in to prepare some handouts for me. Gena and Myrt did a nice job painting a wide range of objects. Big John and Larry H. continued processing our Holiday Light Show (HLS) cords and lights for storage. Bill O. worked on wrapping up cords and cleaning up our garbage bins for repainting. We also saw Tina B., Maury F. and many others today. I continue to prepare for a busy spring and a quick return to prioritizing garden clean up as the weather gets better.
I always enjoy seeing the Golden Spirit European smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Ancot’). This cheerful large shrub is a beacon in the full sun garden with foliage emerging chartreuse with hints of orange, aging to a nice summer gold and then transitioning to fall colors that might include coral, orange and red. While we grow many smokebushes quite well, including all the maroon-leaf forms, this one has been a bit tricky at times. Introduced in 2002, this selection is hardy to zone 4 and is adaptable to a wide range of soils with the exception of damp, poorly drained sites. Sharp drainage is important as is full sun for the best coloration. Summer leaf scorching only occurs on those specimens that are in dry locations so consider the benefits of a nice soil and/or additional watering as needed. I’ve rarely seen this variety flower although it will (see below) nicely on old wood. The foliage is certainly the primary “attribute of interest.” Cutting back this shrub results in the loss of flowers but a strong response with new stems and larger, brighter foliage. We use this “severe cut back” on the ‘Royal Purple’ smokebush (Cotinus coggygria) and the growth response is amazing! Some stem dieback in winter is not unusual. I’ve not seen this variety over 10′ tall yet but imagine it will get larger in time and certainly will grow faster in warmer climates. The “spot of gold” in the landscape provided by this variety is quite a focal point so place it accordingly!
orange tinting on early spring foliage (above)
Golden Spirit smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Ancot’) at Olbrich Botanical Garden (above)
Golden Spirit smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Ancot’) at Boerner Botanical Garden (above)
Golden Spirit smokebush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Ancot’) at RBG (now deceased unfortunately)
Mark Dwyer, Director of Horticulture, Rotary Botanical Gardens
I am the Director of Horticulture at Rotary Gardens (Janesville, WI). Along with a talented grounds staff and dedicated volunteers, I enjoy being involved with this wonderful botanical resource. My educational background is in landscape architecture and urban forestry but it didn't take long to become a plant enthusiast and find a lifelong career.