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In Leaner Times

Report From An Opinionated Gardener – February 18

For two years I’ve loved my purple leaf Harry Lauder’s walking stick, aka Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ Red Majestic. Like many who plant this quirky filbert, I love it in the winter because the zig zaggy branches are interesting when the foliage is gone. Unlike the green leaf variety, however, the leaves on Red Majestic are appealing in the summer as well.

Last year I planted annuals around this shrub and the licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare) went nuts, ultimately using the Red Majestic filbert for support. Now, however, the annuals are dead and gone and the Harry Lauder’s walking stick is all twigs. Now, in leaner times, I can see what was hidden all summer.

Like other Corylus ‘Contorta’, this plant is grafted on another filbert’s rootstock. The contorted varieties don’t live on their own roots. As a result, the plants often put up growth from below the graft and you get un-twisted shoots coming up that want to take over. These weren’t noticeable when the plant had leaves and was covered with the Helichrysum, but they were clearly visible now that it’s winter. I cut them off.

This is one advantage of times that are less verdant…we see things that would otherwise go unnoticed.

You can't see them in this photo because all the foliage hides them, but there are two shoot coming up from the rootstock, looking to take over.

3 comments to In Leaner Times

  • I like the way you have integrated this odd shrub with other plants, especially with those cool blue leaves and hot pink blooms. I have stayed away from using Harry Lauder’s because it looks so ungainly as a specimen by itself, and in the nursery it’s just in a pot alone. It really needs other things to temper it, and your photo shows me some ideas.

  • Laurrie,
    I know what you’re saying about the use of such a striking specimen plant…it’s hard to make it both stand out and blend in. I loved the way the licorice plant climbed up it last season… I’ll be thinking about finding a small, light weight perennial vine/plant that might do the same thing. Last year I used annuals because I didn’t really know what to do with this space so they were a filler.

  • We transplanted one of these last Spring for a client of ours. I can’t wait to see how it does this year.