Today’s pick has been a regular since we started our plant of the week! And it’s usually during the time of year when the leaves are gone. The reason: this plant is my most favorite plant of all, and its best to look at during the dormant times of the year! And it’s weird, and probably one of the most misunderstood plants in the landscape. The plant: Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’, or more commonly known as ‘Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick (Corylus a. is European filbert or E. hazel or cobnut, and called Contorted filbert or Corkscrew hazel). And I love it when someone who does not know this plant and never seen it, sees it for the first time when it has leaves and says, “That’s the Yardboy’s favorite plant? What?”
When it has its 4-inch double serrate, ovate, medium green, hairy wrinkly leaves, it sort of looks like it has something wrong with it…but once those leaves fall off, you see one of the coolest most spectacular dormant season landscape plants ever…thanks to the contorted twisting spiraling branching habit. And in late winter, Harry flowers with both male and female flowers…the males are pale gray-yellow drooping catkins, and the female flowers usually appear just above the catkins on the tips of buds. Look closely…they’re about a 1/16” in size and a striking magenta/red color. Yes, very small but very colorful!
So give Harry a prominent place in the garden or landscape where you see him clearly in the dormant season…and even better if you can see him up close and personal (patio, near walkway, etc)
Note: These can be grafted or grown on their own root stock. If grafted, they are known for suckering – those suckers are straight not twisted so be sure to remove those branches. Harry Lauders Walking stick was discovered growing in a hedgerow in the mid 1800’s by Victorian gardener Canon Ellacombe. It was given its name in the early 1900’s in honor of Scottish entertainer Harry Lauder. Also look for the newer selections with maroon foliage – ‘Red Majestic’ and ‘Red Dragon. Gives you a bit more show during the growing season with the foliage colors, and these are showing good resistance to Filbert Blight.