Greetings and salutations everyone; here I am again, Chess the purebred border collie, filling in for the guy I live with, to tell you all about the fascinating things that happen in our garden. You may remember me from such posts as “Trouble In Paradise” and “After The Equinox”, among so many others.
Here I am in a characteristically pensive pose.The reason, if there really has to be one, for the dumb Hemingway reference will become clear in just a minute. The guy I live with was forced to read a bunch of Hemingway as an English major in college, when he would rather have been reading Raymond Chandler or Ross Macdonald, and he thought this was vaguely funny. This can be a rough climate for what he calls “traditional” plants, and while he tries to steer away from them as much as possible, there are some which he just can’t resist.
This is Cotinus ‘Grace’. Irresistible, he says. And it was on sale. It sat in a bucket full of water overnight, so that the root ball was fully moistened before it went into the ground. He wanted a ‘Grace’ for years and the few nurseries around here which carried it were always sold out when he went searching for it. The guy I live with said that this part of the North Border lacked “density of incident”, which he said was André Gide’s definition of a real work of art. I assume by this that he meant not enough plants, because he doesn’t think gardens are art, and just wanted to show off. He said he knew someone once who pronounced Gide’s name as “guide”, and he still thinks that’s funny. When he and my mommy met, she had a pencil on which she had written the words (from the Psalms) “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”, which is in the inscription in The Counterfeiters (or one of the other novels) and after a while my mommy started reading Gide, which she didn’t pronounce like guide, and especially enjoyed Lafcadio’s Adventures. What this all has to do with the shrub he just bought, I don’t know.
Back to ‘Grace’, now. The guy I live with says that it’s a cross between the North American native Cotinus obovatus and the Eurasian C. coggygria. About C. obovatus, Bean (you know, Bean)says, and I quote, “This remarkable species is found in a few isolated habitats in Tennessee, Alabama, and other south-eastern United States, but is nowhere common. … In the beauty of its inflorescences it is very much inferior to Cotinus coggygria, but, on the other hand, it is one of the loveliest shrubs in autumn, its leaves turning to various shades of scarlet, claret colour, and orange before they fall.”
The other species, Cotinus coggygria, is common in the trade, mostly in its purple-leaved form (the guy I live with says there’s a regular green one up the street), and “needs no introduction”. He says the specific epithet is derived from the Greek κοκκυγέα (kokkigéa), or “wig tree”, which is a common name for the shrub. “Read Theophrastus’s Historia Plantarum“, he said. Like he ever did.
We have a couple of purple smoke bushes, or wig trees, here. One has been in the “way back” garden for many years, and always experiences some die-back during the winter. (Not yet; the leaves just froze.)The other one is new, and the leaves didn’t freeze. Haven’t frozen yet, I mean. Anyway, ‘Grace’ sat in a bucket of water overnight. This morning he pulled it out, and went to work on the root ball, which was mostly just a mass of roots.He used a root hook.So it’s planted now. The guy I live with said he had “moderately high hopes” for its survival. The soil has been dug and re-dug over and over again in the part of the North Border, but it lies over a layer of caliche which is almost impenetrable. He says he could have dug through the layer of caliche down to the natural soil, which is a gritty sandstone-clayey sort of stuff, but he didn’t feel like digging down that far. The border has always been a very dry one, but ‘Grace’ is said to be able to tolerate these conditions. The guy I live with thinks “rejoice in” would be more encouraging than “tolerate”, so we’ll see.
Well, there you go. He has a ‘Grace’ now. I suppose I could have just said that, and saved a lot of time. Oh, and I’m supposed to show this picture of Crocus kotschyanus HKEP 9322. That really is all I have for today. I bet the guy I live with could find a reason for me to drone on for another thousand words, but it’s time for my nap now.
Until next time, then.