A great garden combination

Pairing plants in the garden is one of the things I struggle with. I take heart in the fact that I think it takes a lot of gardeners a long time to get the knack of what looks best with what, and that the beauty of gardening is that you can (almost) always move plants around when things don't work out the way you want them to.

Mother Nature often seems to know more about combinations than many gardeners do. On occasion a plant will pop up in a place you never intended but look great with its neighbors. And then, every once in a while, I actually do something right.

I've been very happy with my purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple') because it's one of the few different foliage colors in the "main" garden. One thing I've been noticing this summer is that I need to work on getting more texture in the garden in the form of foliage color, shape and size. The purple smoke bush is a nice break from all that midtone green.

It's growing in part sun vs. full sun, so I doubt it will ever "smoke," that is, develop the fluffy blossoms. That's actually OK with me because I don't think they are all that great looking, especially when they start to fade. But wouldn't it be great of purple smoke bushes had small, bright pink flowers?

Guess what? Mine does. Well, it doesn't really, but I planted  clematis 'Princess Diana' next to it to wrangle up the purple foliage of the shrub (this is one of my favorite ways to grow clematis). She's doing a great job of showing off this year (and it would be even more beautiful if the stupid anemones would stop acting like they are on speed) and I love how the elongated pink flowers really look like they are part of the smoke bush.


  1. What size was your smoke bush when you planted it? Our neighbors across the street had one that got overrun with weeds and trees. Everything got cut down, and I have a flower garden in the area. I'm working at keeping the weeds and trees at bay, except the smoke bush, which is now about 15 inches high. The guy who owns the house says he'd like me to keep it alive. I'll need to move the fireworks goldenrod that's near it.

    I love your combination with the pretty pink clematis climbing up the bush. It almost does look like it is blooming.

  2. I think I bought it in a 2-gallon container so I would guess it was maybe 24 inches tall or so. It's over my head now (although since I'm just over 5 feet, that's not saying much), but its been growing quickly, I think.

    I know those fireworks goldenrods get big, but I think the two of them near each other would be stunning: the yellow spires of the goldenrod with the rounded purple leaves of the smokebush!


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