Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today


NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.


NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.


New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.


Plant Profiles

Today in the Garden of a Lifetime: Fragrant Twigs of Smokebush

Pruning is one of the ongoing joys of the cold months. Hedges, espaliers, coppices, pollards: My garden—indeed, any garden with wide and deep interest and form—is full of woody plants that need seasonal going-over with pruners, loppers, and even the folding saw.


Soon after starting to cut back my purple-leaved smokebushes, I realized that the air had become thick with spicy fragrance. Who could be cutting back the spice bushes? But I don't have garden help this time of year and, anyway, the spice bushes are a hundred feet from the smokebushes. The fragrance had been released into the air by my pruning of the smokebush stems.


Until today, my sense of winter fragrance had been that it was the exclusive territory of flowers. This new category—fragrance as a result of pruning—brings yet another reason to welcome the cold months.


I brought indoors a bundle of twigs of my smokebushes, Cotinus coggygria 'Velvet Cloak', to see how the fragrance might, so to speak, "bloom" in warmer temperatures.




In a way, I was attempting to force fragrance just like I'd attempt to force flowers. By setting cut stems in a vase of water, the warmth would encourage water uptake and, higher up the stem, the resultant expansion of...well, not flowers or buds in this case. But the further production of sap, and its volatile (and hence fragrant) components that are so good at imitating those that permeate the leaves and stems of true spicebush, Lindera benzoin.




I cut off the top ends of the stems, so that the sap and its fragrance would be exposed to the air instead of remaining trapped within the stem and, possibly, helping to swell leafbuds. The degree of oozing already present on the stems occurred almost immediately after cutting: With Spring imminent, the sap is rising in the stems of plenty of woody plants other than sugar maples. Perhaps by keeping the twigs in water, I can prolong the period through which these smokebush stems will be "sappy" as well as fragrant.


I'll be creating the full write-up for purple-leaved smokebush in the Summer, when my shrub has produced the lush, leafy, and deepest-purple growth that is its colorful hallmark.

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