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November Gardening Journal: Plant of the month - Cotinus Grace

November 1st, 2023
November is the best time of year to start thinking about plans for next year while everything is still fresh in your mind.
At this time of year an autumnal walk can be more enticing than an afternoon in the garden but it’s not quite time to pack up the tools just yet! November is the best time of year to start thinking about plans for next year while everything is still fresh in your mind. As the season turns, it’s all about the leaves, but it's not just about their beauty as they fade and fall, it's about the mess they leave on the ground too. Whether it’s going for an Autumn walk or cleaning up the leaves, enjoy the beautiful colours before the cold sets in.

Some plants really come into their own in the autumn and a good show of autumn leaf colour is hard to beat. In England and Northern Europe we rarely experience the vast displays of colour that North Americans enjoy, however, we do have enough varieties of trees and shrubs available that will help us to orchestrate our own end of the season finale worthy of any landscape.

Cotinus Grace,  commonly known as Smoke Bush,  is a stunning,  bushy and vigorous shrub which has rounded leaves that are dark purple coloured which turn red in the autumn months. From July to August the Cotinus Grace will bear blooms of dark pink/purple coloured flowers which create a smoke like cloud above the foliage.

Cotinus can be planted in many locations of the garden and make a good specimen plant if grown alone. It thrives in a sunny location where it will produce the best leaf colour, however it can grow well in partial shade, with moist, well-drained soil too. Generally, pest free and low maintenance, only requiring occasional pruning,  makes it a good, easy to grow shrub for gardeners of all abilities. Simply remove any dead or damaged foliage in early spring to encourage healthy growth and apply a good quality mulch to the base of the plant once complete. Where space is limited Continus can be coppiced in early spring, which then produces first-year shoots, up to 2 m tall, with large handsome leaves, but no "smoke".

Cotinus is a fascinating plant, valued for its unique aesthetic qualities, wildlife-friendly properties and its many practical uses too. It works well in a mixed shrub border underplanted with spring bulbs and with some small evergreen groundcover or some winter stems to lengthen the season of interest. Try underplanting with Narcissi tete a tete, adding some Cornus alba Elegantissima and Hebe rakiensis and you have a small group of plants that will provide colour and textural interest all year round.

Jobs To Do This Month Include:
Ornamental Garden
• Part prune roses to prevent windrock.
• Continue to tidy borders if weather permits.
• Final cut for lawns if no frosts.
• Remove fallen leaves.
• Cutback spent foliage and flowers of herbaceous perennials.
• Leave the seedheads of grasses like Miscanthus to provide winter structure.
• Continue to lay turf for new lawns – avoid frosty days if possible.
• Remove surplus dead leaves from ponds.
• Complete planting of bulbs.
• Mulch borders – especially borderline hardy perennials.
• Plant bare root shrubs and roses.
• Prune long stems of roses to avoid windrock.
• Take hard wood cuttings of roses and other deciduous shrubs.
• Scarify lawns.
• Keep off lawns in wet and frosty weather.

Vegetable Garden:
• Begin winter pruning of fruit trees.
• Plant fruit trees, soft fruit and cane fruit.
• Plant garlic cloves.
• Apply grease bands around trunks of fruit trees to protect from winter months.
• Apply a good layer of compost / manure to bare areas of ground.
• Protect salad plants under cloches/ fleece etc.
• Clear spent old plants and compost of disease free.
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