FROTHY, feathery plumes form a smoky haze over this shrub in summer. So its popular name of Smoke Bush is fitting indeed. As a hardy garden lodger, cotinus is a top performer, revelling in undiluted sun and not seeking too much TLC apart from careful pruning in autumn.
Effectively, Cotinus coggygria is a double-header, its lollipop-shaped leaves turning various red shades from October onwards and, in the case of varieties Royal Purple, Grace and Flame, velvet purple to fiery red, purple-red to scarlet or blue-green to orange-red in that order.
As for its smoke effect, this is caused by numerous insignificant flowers that evolve into grey or pinkish plumes, depending on the variety. It's worth noting that cotinus – once known as Rhus cotinus – can soar to 10ft, so give it bags of space and prune to keep it manageable, but cut back too hard and you will sacrifice some of that smokiness.