Good foliage shrubs which are both vigorous and easy to control, which look impressive all season yet have elegance and style, are hard to find. British bred Cotinus Dusky Maiden ('Londus') looks set to become one of the best.
There are a number of forms of purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria) around and the deep purple foliage of some is certainly impressive. But they can look rather leggy, especially when young, and when you cut them back you're rewarded with a few long shoots which make the plant look unbalanced. And the flowers can detract from the foliage.
The purple leaves of Dusky Maiden are a striking feature and their undulating edges give them a little extra quality. In the autumn, they turn fiery orange and yellow and are especially colourful in dry seasons. Unlike most purple-leaved forms of Cotinus, Dusky Maiden is very shy flowering so there are few flowers to detract from the look of that gorgeous foliage. And, when you prune, it responds well by producing plenty of new shoots.
'Dusky Maiden does have some sterile flowers,' breeder Peter Moore told me, ‘but is unbeatable as a stunning foliage plant throughout the summer and, if the conditions are right, for autumn colour. This hybrid responds to pruning and produces really bushy plants.'
This is an ideal shrub for sunny mixed borders, where it makes an ideal companion for perennials either in hot or pastel shades, and even thrives in large containers.
Peter Moore works with the RHS Woody Plants Committee on trials, is propagator at Longstock Park Gardens in Hampshire and the breeder of many fine new plants including Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl' and a number of new buddleias including ‘Silver Anniversary'.
Dusky Maiden is the very first hybrid between Cotinus szechuanensis, collected by Roy Lancaster in China, and C. coggygria ‘Velvet Cloak'. Just one seedling germinated - and it turned to be a fine plant.
You can find out more about Cotinus Dusky Maiden ('Londus') on Peter Moore's website.
Cotinus Dusky Maiden ('Londus') is available from these RHS Plant Finder stockists.