Pruning down Continus 'Grace'

maureeninmd(z6 MD)March 23, 2010

I have asked about this before, I apologize, but I am still unsure. (I took it down from about 14 feet) Should I take this down any more or leave it alone? I was thinking about taking it all the way to the ground, but am afraid I'll kill it. I don't know why I care since I may have to remove it anyway as it grows freakishly large, over 6 feet every Spring. I enjoy pruning (and asking questions about pruning, LOL) but I haven't been pleased with the growth habit of this one.

Thanks for your patience


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I'd cut back all the rest of the longer extensions to the same height as the taller pruned stem. And I might remove the smaller branches growing out from the side very low to the ground as well.

The intent with coppicing or pollarding is to develop a permanent framework that supports the longer, annual growth and IME, the best appearance on the shrub is achieved if the framework is all of very similar height. And you will get a better off-season or winter appearance as well.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2010 at 11:40AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

run it over with the truck.. it wont care... whatever

but lets be honest ...

it doesnt fit

its too aggressive ... grows to fast ...

and it no longer makes your toes curl ..

SO WHY KEEP IT ... ????

cut it to the ground.. and apply 100% roundup to the green edge on the cut .. and go get something that fits and elates you ..

it not a child.. you are allowed to get rid of your problems ....


    Bookmark   March 23, 2010 at 12:11PM
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maureeninmd(z6 MD)

Gardengal - I will do as you suggest. Am I understanding you correctly - that coppicing requires developing a framework, not starting all over each year with new growth from the ground? Is that why you did not say to take it all the way to the ground? Thank you for your help!.

Ken - I am a softie and I want to give it another chance. I think if pruned correctly it may look better? When the roses planted in this bed get larger, this smoketree may not look so ridiculous? Also I am a plant hoarder, I think I am certifiable At least it's plants and not cats (I only have 3 of those).


    Bookmark   March 23, 2010 at 12:31PM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

'Grace' is a cross between C. obovata, a native tree, and C. coggygria, a very large shrub. It isn't meant to be coppiced or cut down. It's a tree.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 6:08AM
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I cut mine back hard every spring. Then after a few feet of new growth I trim it to get it to branch more.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 6:56AM
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maureeninmd(z6 MD)

Thanks for the replies everyone.

Laceyvail - Many sources (books, the nursery, ..) have stated that 'Grace' is a good candidate for coppicing. There is a lot of conflicting information in the gardening world. I suspect you may be right though. I'll give it a try this year anyway.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 8:34AM
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It's not a tree, especially when a specimen with multiple trunks - just a largish growing shrub :-) 'Grace' and her smaller Asian smokebush cousins are routinely coppiced all over and to great effect. Just Google "Cotinus 'Grace, coppicing" and see how many hits turn up. FTM, all manner of trees can be coppiced or pollarded as well - coppicing is simply a pruning technique that can be applied to a various assortment of species to reduce height, encourage stem growth and emphasize foliage size and coloring. Eucalyptus, catalpa, paulownia, robinia, corylus and a number of other species are often coppiced for ornamental purposes - willows, oaks, lindens and hornbeams were traditionally coppiced/pollarded for timber.

Maureen, you could cut it all the way back but I think that's a bit too severe. I prefer to develop a permanent above ground framework and cut back annually to that point. Technically this called pollarding rather than coppicing but the terms seem to be used somewhat interchangeably - I think of 'pollarding' as more appropriate to trees that have a distinct trunk and where the permanent framework is maintained quite high. Where you develop that framework is your choice - I've seen it done around chest height (that's how I prune my own), about waist height and lower like yours. The higher the permanent framework, the larger the shrub will be that season, so how big a shrub you want for that particular spot will be the determining factor.

The chest-high framework of my cotinus produced annual growth that reached about 8-9' high each season. And no flowers, of course :-)

    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 9:18AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you said: I am a softie and I want to give it another chance. I think if pruned correctly it may look better?


fine with me...

in a year or two.. MAYBE you will say to yourself ... i should have done it last time.. lol ...

just keep in mind... you dont have to live with super aggressive mistakes ...

i had one at the old house.. planted 6 to 8 feet from the foundation .... within just a few years.. it swallowed the front of the house.. and went right past the roof line ... it was just so wrong where it was ... it was on death row.. but i sold the house and left my problem for the next owner .... one might say.. a pox on their house.. lol ....

as your gardening experience broadens .... 'softie' will become the reaper .... there just isnt time or space for a problem.. when there are so many BETTER alternatives out there ... so what if you lose a few bucks on the investment ....

continue to enjoy spring...


    Bookmark   March 24, 2010 at 9:22AM
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gardenscout(z6 NE RI)

I have Grace out in my front yard, and every year it starts out beautiful and then proceeds to embarrass me the rest of the year. Giant whips flailing wildly that make me cringe every time I look at it.

I love the color and shape of the foliage, but to be honest, this might be the year it gets the shovel.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2010 at 8:20PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

there you go.. scout gets it ...

if it does not curl your toes all season long... then just get rid of it ... life is to short ... scouts.. not the plants ... lol

on my 5 acres... i have many things that are.. for lack of a better term.. seasonal ... they have their moments ... and it is worth my while to keep them around ...

but when i was in suburbia .... space was at a premium .... and there just wasnt room for something that sorta made me happy part of the year ....

the decision should be about what you WANT.. not if you have to get rid of something ....


    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 8:52AM
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maureeninmd(z6 MD)

Gardenscout - I agree about the color and shape of the foliage. Fall color is very nice too. I already cut it down further. Later I'm gonna do what ginkgonut suggested - cut it back again after a few feet of growth. Then probably get rid of it next year! See, I'll follow everyone's advice!

Ken - I'm glad you do not live near me or I'm afraid I'd find you over here ripping this tree out yourself! Seriously, I really do like the foliage on this one. I am looking into replacements but do not care for purply foliage.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2010 at 10:10AM
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alygal(PacNW z7)

Oh boy I just bought this shrub. It's going in a large front yard; in a sunny border which will separate lawn from a parking area. It's not a formal yard but more natural. I purposely bought it on the report of its autumn color not necessarily for bloom. I hope I won't be sorry.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2010 at 6:33PM
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